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The Intel System – A Deep Dive!

Hello everyone! It’s Steve with a new dev diary. It’s been a while but I’ve been hard at work on a major new system that will be implement fully over the next several weeks. I am super proud of this system, and I think it will expand game play significantly without being overly ‘fiddly’. Anyway, here’s how it works!

INTEL RATINGS

There are 2 overall Intel ratings to track: Intel Progress and Spec Ops Progress. Every Character, Planet, and House has this rating. Intel Progress refers to how through (or not) that entity is being surveilled, from 0-100. 0 means that you know basically nothing about that entity, while 100 represents maximum surveillance/intelligence gathering ability. In practical terms this means:

HOUSE:

  • 0-24 IP: No information about plans or strategies, no information about House resources, no information about Plots. You always know Holdings. No information about Projects other than Claims.
  • 25-49 IP: Limited information about plans – you know the House Grand Strategy, but not the secondary strategies. You know a wide range of resources, example a House may have between 25-300 Basic Materials. You know a House has active Projects, but you don’t have a target or expected time to completion.
  • 50-75 IP: You know a House Grand Strategy, and you have a 50-50 chance each turn to learn the Secondary Strategy. You know a much narrower range of resources and Power. You know all House Projects and their target, but not their expected time to completion.
  • 76+ IP: You have essentially complete information about a House (think pre-Intel version).

CHARACTER:

  • 0-24 IP: No practical Intel on this Character. You do not know their skills or any of their relationships. You do not know how they feel about you (they will be considered neutral/indifferent). You do not know their resources such as money and you do not know their personality traits such as Intelligence or Charisma. You have no chance to learn any part of a Secret/Rumor on a Plot, if any, with this character.
  • 25-49 IP: Low Intel on this character. You know a few Skills and you have a small chance to learn additional Skills each turn. You may reveal up to one Trait. You have a range of resources known, and you have a significant spread of their personality traits.
  • 50-64 IP: Moderate Intel on this character. You know about half their Skills and you know their relationship towards you. You may reveal up to 2 Traits. You have a narrower range of resources known, and you have a smaller spread of their traits. You still do not know their relationships with other Characters.
  • 65-79 IP: High Intel on this character. You know most of their Skills and you may reveal all Traits. You know their exact resources and you have a very close spread of their traits. You know all relationships with other Characters. You have a small chance each month (turn) (roughly the IP/20 chance) to learn a part of any Secrets/Rumors for Plots.
  • 80-100 IP: Max Intel on this character. You know all Skills and all Traits, and you have exact ratings for their traits. You also have a larger chance (roughly the IP/10 percent chance) of learning a part of any Secrets/Rumors.

OCCUPIED PLANET (unoccupied planets use Scan Levels to determine ratings)

  • 0-24 IP: No Intel. You do not know the current Population of the planet, the GPP, or any significant demographics. You do not know the Planet’s Fear or Love rating, nor do you know their Unrest Level. Practically speaking, you will have at least some intel on all of your Empire planets; this primarily applies to planets owned by other civilizations that you meet. You have no chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 25-49 IP: Low Intel. You know the Population of the planet, and you know the reported GPP and employment levels. You do not know significant demographics, including happiness and reasons people do or do not have unrest, and you will have a range for Fear and Love, as well as Unrest. You have a very small chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet (~1%)
  • 50-64 IP: Moderate Intel: You know the population of the planet, GPP, and demographics. You do not know planet happiness demographics but you do know all other demographics, including culture breakdown. You have close ranges on Fear and Love and Unrest. You have a small chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 65-79 IP: High Intel: You know all statistics on the planet exactly, and you have a somewhat greater chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 80-100 IP: Max Intel: You know all statistics on the planet exactly, and you have the highest chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.

IP can be increased by the following each turn:

  • Informants on Planets can increase Planet IP and Characters on that planet IP. If the Planet is a House Throneworld, House IP can increase as well.
  • Inquisitors that are investigating (using an Active Intel Mission) a specific House, Character, or Planet will greatly increase the IP of that entity. Inquisitors that are using a Passive Intel Mission will increase a small amount depending on scope. An Inquisitor can be assigned to a planet, system, or province, with a corresponding loss of effectiveness the wider their assigned scope is.
  • IP can randomly increase depending on the overall Intel Budget.
  • Active Empire Intelligence Centers.
  • Random events.

IP can decrease by the following each turn:

  • Lack of budget for Informers (you will know the break-even point to maintain this budget)
  • Characters going into Exile/Hiding status.
  • Houses going into Lockdown (this is an Action they can take to decrease their IP level)
  • Planets can decrease by moving away Inquisitors that are actively surveying or by a Viceroy increasing a Planet’s Autonomy Level.
  • IP will gradually decay each turn about 2-3 points due to attrition and information age.

Spec Ops Progress (SOP) is also a number from 0-100 and represents an Inquisitor Squad’s ‘preparation’ to execute, pardon the pun, a special/black Operation (Op) on a Character or a House. Planets are generally too large to impact, although they can be impacted indirectly by Ops that affect their Viceroy or Governors. Generally speaking, the larger the number, the more Ops that become available and the higher the SOP number is over the minimum required, the better chance the Op has of succeeding. You will be able to see accumulated SOP points on each Character and House, as well as a general chance of success for each Op. For example, Assassination requires 70 SOPs to be accumulated. This is done by assigning an Inquisitor Squad to ‘Spec Op Preparation’ status and their scope is the targeted Character. Once the SOP threshold reaches 70, the Action will unlock and it may be attempted at any time. The closer the SOP is to 100, the better chance of success, although an Op with a low SOP requirement will have a much better chance of success since you can go much higher over the threshold than a higher SOP requirement. Once an Op is activated, one of 5 things can happen each turn:

  • The Op did not go off for whatever reason. The Inquisitor Squad will try again next turn.
  • The Op failed, but the Inquisitor was not caught.
  • Critical Failure. The Op failed, and the Inquisitor was caught attempting it. This will result in a loss of Intel Skill for your Inquisitor, and a large uptick in Fear from your population, as well as a violent reaction from the Character and their House that was attacked.
  • The Op succeeded, and the Inquisitor was not caught.
  • Pyrrhic Success. The Op succeeded, but the Inquisitor was caught during the egress phase. See Critical Failure results, but with the addition that what you wanted to happen actually did.

INTEL LEVERS

INFORMERS: These are passive Pops that depending on the intel budget allocated to informers on that planet, will act as a passive intel net. They will (very) slowly raise the IP of planets, and can randomly raise the IP of Characters on the planet. There is also a chance they will hear of a Rumor and will pass it long as an Event. There is no Fear effect from using Informers. Pops will only act as Informers if their unrest level is below 40, and certain Cultures are more likely than others to act as Informants. Beyond allocating the budget for each planet and the overall Intel budget, you can not control Informants directly.

INQUISITORS. Inquisitors are the heart of the Intel System in AotSS. You initially start with 3, and they act as your eyes and ears (and blasters, and lasers, and knives…) of the Empire. They are always 100% loyal to you, and they can only be trained in Empire Intelligence Centers that can be built on your Holdings. EICs can be Level 1, 2, or 3, and the level represents how many Inquisitors they can support. So if you have a level 2, level 3, and level 1 EIC on 3 different planets, you can support up to 6 total Inquisitors.

Inquisitors are actually squads – the Inquisitor is the actual investigator and leader of the squad, while the squad (around 15 highly trained soldiers) are used for protection, muscle, and intimidation when needed. Inquisitors can be sent to any planet in the Empire at any time, and travel twice as fast as merchant ships. There is no limit to the number of Inquisitors that can be on a planet at any time, or assigned to a House, although only one Inquisitor can be attached to a Character at a time.

Inquisitors have 3 main ratings: Intel Skill, Ops Skill, and XP. Intel Skill is a rating from 1-10 and represents how able the squad is in gathering Intel passively and actively. This skill is somewhat of a logarithmic progression, so a jump from 1 to 2 is greater then a jump between 6 and 7. Still, it’s worth having highly skilled Inquisitors since they are rare commodities. XP is a number from 1-100, tracked for both Intel and Ops, and represents the experience that the Inquisitor Squad is getting from activities. XP decreases slightly each turn when a Inquisitor Squad is stood down, and if the XP drops below 0 a random Skill drops a level. Once the XP reaches 100, the relevant skill will increase by 1 point and the XP will drop back down to 0.

Inquisitors cost a lot of money, especially more skilled ones. They may be loyal, but you pay them to be loyal! You will see the base cost to maintain your squads on the Intel Window, as well as the Budget window when you set your yearly budget. You can stand down individual Squads as a Mission, and they will count for very little against your budget, but each turn that they are stood down will require that many turns to be reactivated. In addition, if they are stood down more than 2 years (20 turns) there is a greater chance each turn after which they may disband forever to pursue personal goals (and get paid). You must be able to pay the cost per month of each Inquisitor Squad that is active during the previous year for the upcoming year, or they will disband. This is prorated during the year, so if the cost for an entire year is 200 BC for a squad, and they are stood down for 5 months (half the year), you will be responsible for 100 BC for the following fiscal year, or else they will disband. In addition, they will take 5 months to reactivate to readiness. Once a Inquisitor Squad is disbanded, they are lost forever – you will have to raise, train, and equip a new one from scratch! It takes 10 turns to raise a new Inquisitor divided by the level of the Empire Intelligence Center that they are raised from.

Inquisitors also have another effect: they raise Fear throughout your Empire. Pops are unsettled to know that you wield highly trained, unflappable, professional killing squads at your beck and call. Thus, you will always have a small amount of Fear per month as a ‘baseline’ based on the number of Inquisitors you have active. If they perform Active Intel on a planet, they will significantly raise the Fear level. This effect will be dampened somewhat if they are performing Passive Intel, and even less if they are at a System or Province scope. Stood down Squads have no effect since the populace do not know they are stood down – they are assumed to be lying in wait for their next mission! Missions like Target Unrest will have a large effect on Fear on the target planet, and act as a ‘wave’ of Fear moving to other planets in the system and outward to the province (with less effect with distance).

MISSIONS: Inquisitors can perform several Missions.

  • PASSIVE INTEL: This is simply information and intelligence gathering, with a planet, system, or province scope. This is the least impactful of Fear levels, but also the least effective, and the least experience gathering.
  • ACTIVE INTEL: This is active information gathering on a Character or a House. This will quickly raise the IP much more quickly and on a specific target, but will raise Fear levels somewhat. This will also not do much for your relationship with this Character and/or House.
  • SPEC OPS PREPARATION: Use this Mission when you are looking to use a Spec Op on a Character or a House. Each turn that your Inquisitor is in this status will add Spec Ops points to the targeted Character/House.
  • INDICT CHARACTER: If you are reasonably sure of a Plot’s initiator, you can move to Indict a Character, basically sending them to trial. The result of the trial will be known after 2-4 months. If you’re right, the Character can be sentenced to exile or death, and your Power and Love will soar, but if you’re wrong and they are innocent they and their House will be justifiably pissed, and your Love rating and Power will take a large hit.
  • TARGET UNREST: The Inquisitor Squad will look to find instigator Pops that have the highest Unrest levels and ‘silence’ them. In game terms, they will disappear from the game, put in prison or killed outright. Naturally, while quite effective in lowering Unrest on a specific planet, it will significantly raise Fear and lower Love on the planet and radiate throughout the system. It will also have the effect of lowering Unrest to a degree in any other planets in the system.
  • STAND DOWN: If you can’t afford to have all your Inquisitor Squads active, you can stand them down so your budget will be less next turn.
  • TRAIN: You still pay full price for the Inquisitors, but they will accumulate XP faster and across both types of skills (intel and ops). They can also be assigned a new mission at any time.

The following are Spec Ops:

  • BLACKMAIL CHARACTER/HOUSE: This is a Spec Op that looks to find compromising information about a House or a Character. If successful, they will always accede to your requests for at least a year. Failure means that no information was discovered. In rare instances, if the Inquisitor is caught snooping, the Character/House will use it for propaganda against your rule, and you will lose Power and the Inquisitor will lose Skill.
  • INTERROGATE CHARACTER: This is a Spec Op that will basically do what it says; the Character will end up in an intelligence room and they will be strongly coerced to talk about what they know. This is a very quick way to increase IP on a character, as well as learn about any Plots they may be a part of, but they will be very unhappy about the process, as will their House. This Op can not fail.
  • ASSASSINATE CHARACTER: What it says. It’s a hit on a character. If successful, the character dies and is removed from the game. If a failure, and the Inquisitor is discovered, you will take a massive Power and Fear hit, and if the Character is a high-ranking House member the House may well declare Limited or Total war.
  • DESTROY HOUSE RESOURCES: The squad looks to sabotage House resource holdings such as materials or energy. If successful, the resources are destroyed and can not be used by anyone.
  • STEAL HOUSE RESOURCES: Similar to destroy, but much harder. The difference is the resources will go to your House instead of being destroyed.

AUTONOMY LEVEL

Viceroys have one significant defense against intel: they can decrease the Autonomy of the planet. This will affect GPP, happiness, and unrest in a negative way, but it will make it much more difficult to raise the IP of Houses or Characters on the planet. A proactive Viceroy may decide it’s worth the negative effects to keep you from critical Characters or protect the House throneworld! Autonomy has 4 levels – Full, Significant, Moderate, or Limited. The ‘less’ autonomy on a planet, the less migration occurs, the lower the PDL drops (since people are more controlled, they do not shop, eat, or entertain as often), and in a nice bonus, it will actually increase production somewhat! (This may be offset by eventual unrest and happiness penalties, however). You can not control this level – other Houses do not have spy networks and you do not need to defend against ‘rival’ Inquisitors.

So that’s a fairly in-depth overview of the Intel system. Hopefully it will give you some idea of what to expect when the entire system is added in about a month! It will be added over the next several releases, so be ready – it will radically change the way the game is played!

Enjoy!

-Steve

 

 

 

 

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.7.3.0 released today!

Hey all!

Just released .7.3.0 today! It’s got some huge optimization improvement, a patch bypasser, more Actions, better AI, and lots o’ bug smashing! I highly recommend adding it, as it also includes the foundation for the Favor and Plot system coming later this month!

The changelog is added to the .7 Changelog post!

Enjoy!

-Steve

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By Request – All .7 Changelogs Posted Here Going Forward!

Hey all,

I have been posting my changelogs on Twitter, but that may not be enough visibility. Going forward, I’ll also be posting them here as blog posts so that they are more accessible. Without further ado… a list of all changelogs since .7.0.0!

.7.0.0

Changes and fixes

  • Completely updated UI – updated elements, fonts, and tooltips
    • New font for clarity
    • Increased size of many elements and fonts
    • Universal color scheme
    • Added economic summary window that shows among other things how close the empire is to insolvency and whether your House’s purse will make up any shortfall. If it can’t, and the Empire goes bankrupt, you will be forced out of office and exiled or killed – in other words, game over.
    • Changed layout of planet mode – now summary panels are on the left, allowing more room to see planet graphics
    • Added expanded information for trades, production, and build times on Economic Mode
    • Added expanded information for active Projects including target of Project and ETA (given no issues!)
    • Added new Demographic panel that shows several values of performance for each Pop class like unrest, happiness, etc.
    • New art – new character models, replaced old models
    • All planets are now 3D, several different models for variety and looks
    • Added Planet Demographic panel with breakdown of Pops job, statuses, and happiness
    • Added new House emblems and Civ emblems
    • Added Audience window for upcoming Character requests to speak with you and/or tell you something personal
    • Added many more choices for player House emblem, and it updates (along with House color) in the game
    • Added new Icons for Relationships between Houses
    • Added House tool tip for easier dynamic information about Houses when you are looking at Characters, etc.
  • Changed the way initial Relationships between Houses are done – now no relationship can start below ‘Cold War’ and be better than ‘Friends’
  • Added more Actions to facilitate working with Characters who would refuse to work with you any other way, including exiling them!
  • Added first stages of Xyl mechanic – they are the alien invaders that drove humans from Earth 1,000 years ago. Currently the new UI elements shows how many turns until the Xyl’s final attack happens and the rough estimate of the power of the attack. There will be a check at the end of the last turn vis a vis your Empire’s power vs the Xyl, and may the best man – or alien – win! (This will be a much more fleshed out mechanic over the later versions)
  • Added numerous House Actions that are only applicable to the House Leader to help influence the House relationships
  • Added the concept of Emperor Reputation. Basically, you (the Emperor) has a separate Reputation with each House that helps determine whether a check is required to decrease the relationship type. All Projects and Actions affect this reputation, and they have knock-on effects (so that if you help a House that is in a war with other Houses or have poor relations, they will be unhappy and it will be reflected in your reputation) Reputation normalizes over time back to 0 if no actions are taken, faster for positive reputation than for negative.
  • Expanded trade hub effect areas – this should make it easier to create contiguous trade zones
  • Added many more conversations to the conversation engine so there should be more rich and varied responses from your Characters when you interact with them
  • Added Economic Budget System
    • You will have 5 ‘sliders’ that you can change at the start of each year for free, as well as change the Imperial Tax and the Holding Taxes.
    • Development – increases the standard of living on planets and generally increases Happiness and lowers Unrest
    • Military – will be used to build and maintain space and ground military forces, no effect in this build
    • Intel – used to build and maintain Inquisitors and Intel networks
    • Science – used to maintain Academies that you control
    • Diplomacy – used as a ‘pool’ that can be used to bribe or gift Houses/Civilizations
    • Added Tax Change slider – you can now change the Holding tax and the various Governor taxes once per year.
  • Added House Diplomacy System
    • House Diplomacy with the Empire is now governed by 7 diplomatic states: Peace/Neutral, Cold War, Limited War, Total War, Friends, Allies, and Subject Houses.
    • House Attitudes are now: Friendly, Cooperative, Neutral, Mistrustful, and Hate. This should simplify the House states somewhat and create a delineation between how a House currently feels about the Empire and their actual diplomatic state, which may be different than how they feel.
  • Removed Characters from selection screens who refuse to work with you (have the ‘no’ symbol on their picture)
  • Added Strategic AI for Houses
    • They can now use Projects, colonize, and build outposts, starbases, trade hubs, etc.
    • They follow the same rules that your emperor does – they must use their own House resources, they need Administrators and contributors to their own projects, and they use their own financial resources (their own people do not pay, but they use their House treasuries to pay for Projects).
    • So far Houses only have 3 ‘ultimate’ strategies – power, wealth and expansion, but more will be added over time.
    • Ultimate Goal States are heavily influenced by House Leader traits and stats, their relative power in the Empire, and their House ‘DNA’ (historical actions and strengths)
    • Specific Character AI will be added in future updates
    • Tweaked Viceroy AI to better support high-level plans from Houses to more properly develop their Holdings per their House’s wishes/needs
    • Added UI support to show what a House’s current top-level goal and current strategy is. Note that once the Intel system is implemented you will have to develop Intel to discover this information
  • Added Riot check to planets that have unrest above 50% – will cause Pops to stop working, GPP to drop, and eventually facilities to be destroyed if the riots are not brought under control
    • Added 2 new Actions related to Riots: Meet Rioter Demands (costs a lot of credits and basic materials, you will gain Love and lose Fear on that planet, people will generally be happy for a while and Break Rioters Will (basically executes several Pops that are responsible for Riots, will greatly increase Fear and drop Love throughout your Empire, and your Houses will ALL sustain a drop in relations (except for Spartan cultures; they’ll approve)
    • Each Pop that can riot is checked – some may, some may not, but the check will not start until < 50% unrest takes hold (people feel there is enough background unrest and issues to start making their feelings felt violently)
  • Added a few Projects, mainly for riot control, and took a few away that weren’t working properly
  • Added exciting new Project – Initiate Orbital Kinetic Strike! Found in Military Projects in the Planet View:
    • Will damage planet – will hit 2-3 random populated Regions and damage the Infrastructure, and reduce sectors as well as killing Pops in those Regions
    • You will take a serious Reputation loss with the holding House, as well as any Houses allied to that House
    • Your Fear will skyrocket
    • Your Love will nosedive
    • Any Riots on the planet will end VERY quickly
    • Fear will increase in that system somewhat, and across the Empire less (think Death Star effect)
  • When giving a Holding to another House, also removed existing Viceroy and replaced with a Character from the new owning House
  • Changed algorithm to draw planets more consistently spaced and sized across multiple larger resolutions in System mode
  • Fixed an issue where the system view star would draw across inner planets when zoomed in
  • Increased zoom performance and increased speed in general
  • Greatly decreased turn speed (average time between turns now 10-15 seconds)
  • Fixed all existing Action conversation trees and now characters should respond appropriately
  • Changed Action response algorithms and now characters should be much more likely to respond to Action requests in line with their current relationship with you, unless they have a very high Honor and that House hates you.
  • Changed algorithm for ‘will not serve’ to greatly decrease the likelihood that they will not serve if they are friends (should be virtually 0 unless their House hates you and they have a very high Honor) and allies should be similar
  • Fixed an issue where Projects that were ‘sent’ to other planets (probes, colonizing fleets, etc.) were being treated as though the administrator was actually traveling to that planet. Made 2 important changes:
    • For fleet/probe based actions where the administrator would not physically ‘be there’ they no longer have a travel time
    • Instead, a ‘fleet arrival time’ is used. Fleets move much faster than civilian transports, about 3 times faster, so Projects that are interstellar/fleet-based should be treated much more sensibly now
  • Changed ‘groveling’ Action response algorithms to virtually always accept unless the character is much more powerful than you AND they are at Vendetta with you
  • Ensured that all Houses would have at least one Holding
  • Removed Common Houses – they added nothing to the gameplay but overhead
  • Fixed trade algorithm to allow planets to trade at a negative GPP to fulfill needs (but obviously that means that other planets will have to be profitable to keep the Empire in the green)
  • Lowered prices across the board and reduced fuel costs to allow for more trades
  • Activated ‘culture and idea’ migration – now Pops will take a planet’s dominant culture into account depending on the strength of their Ideas
  • Activated ‘Authoritarianism’ Idea – Pops and Cultures who score high in this Idea are more drawn to and like Viceroys/Governors with high Administration skill and have issues with weak leaders. More Idea effects will be added as the game progresses
  • Balanced economic model to take higher ADL into account – there is now more incentive to build planets with higher levels of Pops (academics, fluxmen, administrators, merchants)
  • Fixed issue where some Character screens loaded incorrectly (primarily House Leaders)
  • Fixed several issues with the Trade algorithm – trades should happen more often (and take less time to process)

Fixed lots and lots and lots of other smaller bugs

 

AotSS Changelog .7.0.1

Additions

  • News screen added on main menu, showing game news, updates, and hyperlinks to various help utilities
  • Added main menu screen in-game – currently functional: new game, quit game, return to game – new game code now in place for future load game system
  • Added player House Icon in place of generic House Info button

Changes/balance

  • Decreased turn generation pre-game to 3 turns
  • Increased size of small and medium quadrants to assist in ensuring a stable empire is generated
  • Increased popular support maluses to make the starting Popular Support trend slightly negative initially in most cases so that the player will have something to focus on right away
  • Increased starting material stockpiles for player House so that more can be accomplished early in game

Bug fixes

          • Static (sprite) objects no longer rotate 90 degrees when zoomed into planet view
          • All Enum states are now formatted correctly (e.g. planet types, character types)
          • On the finance planet view, character revenue allocations now refresh upon opening of mode
          • Crash when production resources go negative has been fixed – now if you have insufficient materials to generate a ‘production run’ of build points, that material will not generate until there are enough materials to produce BPs equal to your overdrive
          • Removed Change buttons on Emperor screen on new game setup
          • Fixed all incorrect/missing tooltips on Character screen
          • Fixed issue where no characters were being generated during game setup, generally with smaller quadrants/empires

 

7.0.3 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • (Finally) added save and load capability! You can save a game (hot save only) in the options menu in-game and load a game from either that same menu or from the main screen.
  • Added button disablers to prevent attempting to load a nonexistent game. Once you have a save game, the load buttons will be active.
  • Known issues with load:
    • Trade hubs will not always generate – they will generate next turn
    • The physical ships will not load – they are representative anyway but will require a rewrite of the trade generation system to have initialize in a load game. I will do that but not this round
    • Save games are very large (~170 MB). While not an issue per se I would like to make them smaller to help with portability and load times.
    • No known issues with save at this time – the game will look like it’s frozen up but it’s working – I’m working on more graphic feedback on this process for next update
  • Grand Vizier Screen – this is sort of a monthly update/winning screen that will do the following monthly:
    • Give you some broad advice depending on your situation
    • Show you progress towards winning/losing conditions
    • Give you a set of goals to pursue based on your situation (always optional, but helpful for some direction)
    • Give you some potential issues in your empire
    • Accessible from the button bar on the top left, with the Grand Vizier picture button
  • Added remaining functionality for economic screen
    • Sliders to set your budget at the start of the year are now active. The button will ‘lock in’ your selections and be active if it is time to change your budget, otherwise it will show remaining months until you can change
    • You can now change your Holding tax. This can be changed whenever you like but it will cost you 20 Power to do so. This represents the percentage of GPP that Houses give you from their Holdings that count towards the yearly GPP projection.
  • Massively increased frame rate by optimizing graphics on galaxy map
    • Increase is 20-40 FPS in some cases, large quadrants might still be a little slow but should still be 40+ FPS on a good computer

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added a few more portraits
  • Added number of available fleets on the planetary trade box
  • Tweaked balance on setup. All Small quadrants have 80 stars, all Medium quadrants have 120 stars, and all Large quadrants have 160 stars. Also adjusted minimum distance between constellations, this should help allow more exploratory gameplay
  • Changed scale of UI windows to make them slightly smaller (should fit better on smaller monitors)

BUG FIXES

          • Fixed major bug that would generate stars ‘lost’ in space that seemed to be attached to a nearby constellation
          • Fixed a few other generation issues
          • (Hopefully) fixed very rare bug where the game would not generate due to a duplicate key error when generating characters
          • Fixed a few text errors
          • Fixed runaway elastic-ness on intel screen when viewing planet list
          • Fixed issue where sometimes constellations would not show, causing stars not to show as well

 

7.0.4 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Change: Revamped Character Info screen in preparation for Intel/Secrets/Plot system
    • Added: Character Relationship Matrix (click on second button on side button tab to access)
      • Will allow you to see all relationships with all other characters in the game (for now; soon this will be tied into overall intel level – the more you know, the more relationships will be revealed)
      • Can filter by Rank – all or none. Soon add by House
    • Can now click directly onto a Character Card and it will open the Character Info screen for that character
    • Updated fonts and size to make things easier to read
    • Added Character Skills on Customer Info Screen
    • Added Intel required to see Character Skills – you will now need at least some intel to reveal character skills, one at a time, and Max Intel will always reveal all skills
  • Added: Budget Slider Effects
    • Adding to Military Budget will increase the chance that a given Pop will decrease their Unrest each month, at a cost of Emperor Fear (they are being oppressed)
    • Adding to Domestic Budget will increase the chance that a given Pop will decrease their Unrest each month and increase their Planet Happiness, and their Emperor Love will increase
    • Military Unrest Suppression is 4X more effective than Domestic
    • Intel Budget will increase the chance that a given Character will have their Intel level increased each month by 1
    • Savings will add that percentage of the year-end GPP budget to your House treasury for use as needed
    • No effect yet for Reform
  • Added: Change Holding Taxes
    • Costs 50 Power to do this, but you can do it anytime
    • If tax > 30%, Houses will start to accrue negative Emperor reputation; if tax < 20% Houses will accrue Positive
    • Affects what percentage of ‘tribute’ Houses give you from their Holdings, and contributes directly to the GEP.
  • Added: Reputation/Rank effects to Relationship changes
    • Whenever you take an Action against a character, the effect that that Action has on your relationship with other characters is now modified by the Power and Rank of that character. In other words, people will be far less bothered with how you treat a Courtier than a System Governor, and the Action effects will be relative
  • Added: House Relation Changes – now hooked up. Once your Emperor Reputation goes below -500, there is an increasing chance that a House will lower their relationship with your House by one level. When that happens, the Emperor Reputation will reset to 0.
  • Added: 6 new Alerts – House Relations in Danger, House Relations Dropped, House Relations Improved, New Intel on Character, Population Suppressed, and Population Inspired.
  • Added: 2 new Grand Vizier Goals, 2 new opportunities
  • Added: Grand Vizier advice past the first month – it was somewhat of a bug where it wouldn’t advance past the opening month advice. Took time to add additional advice to the system.
  • Added: Project: Relocate Province Hub – this Project will allow you to relocate an existing Hub for less than it would cost to build a new one. Will upset the former owners, but make the current ones happy.
  • Added: Finance Prime info to Economic Screen – Shows portrait(which is clickable) and the overall economic effect the FP is having on your GEP. This is not actually installed (yet) but is planned for next build. You will have the ability to replace your Primes in the next build.

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • Tweaked balance where needed, now it generally is harder for Pops to maintain a high Love rating
  • Upped costs on several Projects
  • Made it clear on Outpost Project Help that the system where the Outpost is must be assigned to a Province (the province hub is where it sends its goods)
  • Changed balance with reputation changes with Actions – now should not be so quick to change, also in line with new Rank/Power mechanic above

BUG FIXES

          • Fixed major bug that would very rarely cause game to hang during game generation, related to updating character relationships
          • Fixed tooltip bug when you hovered over the Emperor on the COC bar
          • Fixed several logic issues related to how characters responded to your Actions – many times they reacted positively when you hurt one of their Friends or Allies, and vice versa; this behavior has been fixed
          • Fixed some odd issues with Projects where the ADM does not add correctly. Some of that is due to the Administrator and the relationships they have with the contributors but that’s not clearly notated on the Project form

 

7.1.0 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: Comprehensive Help System
    • Added 200+ tooltips that explain virtually every panel and concept in AotSS. Many of the tooltips have ‘expanded’ information that explain not just what the item/concept is, but how to change/adjust it, produce it, etc. Many more values are explained in AotSS now.
    • Added 15+ help screens on each panel and window (except for game setup; adding separate help for that next update) that explain what the panel does and how each control works – to activate the help, simply roll your mouse over the ‘i’ icon in the upper-left or upper-right corner of a window or panel
    • Added internal functionality for Grand Vizier advice on each screen – next few builds will add advice on concepts. As opposed to the ‘this is how to do something’, the GV will explain ‘this is why you should do something’. These will be accessed with a bubble chat icon on each window/panel.
    • Rewrote and expanded many existing tooltips as well to fit in with this system
    • Standardized tooltip orientation – all tooltips should more or less activate and show from the same corner
  • Added: Viceroy Time In Position Modifier
    • It is unrealistic to think that you can just plop down a new leader and immediately you can triple a planet’s GPP. This new system will immediately cut the efficiency of the viceroy’s skills by a percentage – in the first few months it may be as low as 15-20%! It will gradually raise to 100% based on government skill and intelligence, and you can see this modifier on the planet screen in the viceroy window
    • Affects GPP and production currently.
  • Added: UI Changes/Updates
    • Color coded several numbers to make them more readable and to understand what is ‘good’ in the game. Also, several layout changes to improve readability, including larger fonts in several areas and a revamp of the Project Screen to be clearer and cleaner
  • Added Project: Remove Excess Infrastructure
    • This Project will allow you or a House to remove 50% of unused infrastructure from each Region of a planet. This is huge when you have a planet that has been losing Pops but is still paying a large infrastructure upkeep in materials and money.
  • Added: End Turn Next Step functionality
    • The End Turn button will be red and will explain what you need to do to move to the next turn. Currently, it will tell you when you need to approve the yearly budget. Once you do what you need to do, the button will turn blue and you will be able to proceed.

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • Balance: Reduced APs at start of game, but no less than 2 per turn (so you can at least do 2 Actions or 1 Project). This creates more interesting choices early.
  • Balance: Raised costs of many Projects and lowered others. For example, the Scout System Project cost more than the Survey System Project, even though you get more info with the Survey. Also lowered scout costs across the board to help the AI scout more effectively.
  • Balance: Reduced the effect of Actions across the board and made it overall more difficult to change relationships with a single Action, unless it is a very powerful Action like a challenge, removal, or exile
  • Balance: Rebalanced the planet generation values so that more ‘exotic’ planets like lava and toxic have very high values in materials or energy so there is some thought to putting outposts there, despite the bio. Also: super earths are now really super!
  • Balance: Removed the ability to colonize and outpost gas/ice giants. This will be an ability that you can research later in the development of .7 with the Reform/Science system. Also removed the possibility of these being colonized at the start of the game (more of a bug than a feature)
  • UI: Added available fleets to Trade Panel in Economic Command Mode.
  • UI: Renamed ‘Average Development Level’ to ‘Planetary Development Level’. Makes more sense based on what it is.
  • Intel: Changed the algorithm to make more checks for revealed skills based on the new level – higher levels get more checks. This should result in more revealed skills at higher levels
  • Graphics: All planets should now rotate about their axis. Just a graphical thing, but it adds some life to the planets!
  • Change: Changed the way the Planetary Development Level (formerly ADL) is calculated – now it uses staffed levels of development instead of total levels, representing pops that would be generating income (since they’re employed!)
  • Change: New Emperors on their first turn will always have a one-time $500bc budget to use, regardless of their empire’s situation. This fixes issues where there is no budget at the start of the year, or too little to really make a difference, and fits the narrative that a new Emperor would have some sort of ability to influence things waiting for them.

BUG FIXES

  • Fixed the non-working exit button at the main menu
  • Fixed a long-running bug where you could have more employed Pops than total Pops, causing issues with production
  • Fixed a bug where the end turn button didn’t work after the first year
  • Fixed a bug where the budget was never available after the first year
  • Fixed an issue where the province hub would not show on the map if the civ hub was also in that system
  • Fixed a character generation issue where the House would be assigned prior to skill generation, so Intelligence would not factor into skills like it should.
  • Fixed an issue where very few characters would show up in the character selection screen when you tried to replace or fire a character
  • Fixed an issue where Neo-Sirius’s trade panel never showed up, as though it did not have a trade port in the system
  • Fixed some wonkiness with GPP generation
  • Fixed an issue where characters would react to an Action completely not what you would expect
  • Fixed an issue where the planet claim procedure would claim terrible planets like gas and ice giants that had great traits that artificially brought the bio up to a minimum level, but were still terrible planets
  • Fixed a rare but annoying bug that hung the game during galaxy generation – having to do with character relationships
  • Fixed some misspellings in tooltips and cleaned up some wording to align with some new concepts
  • Fixed most tooltip issues that result in ‘hanging tooltips’ where they don’t disappear no matter what – this results from a null data error. Working on a disposal routine to check for these whenever the graphics are refreshed and will be added to the next update
  • Small performance increases

 

7.1.1 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: Expanded Option Button
    • Now you can adjust sound settings, or mute either the UI, music, or both
    • Added hooks to add graphic options in next update
  • Added: Player House Tradition Selection
    • Added the ability to change your House’s tradition levels in 7 categories (Military Tradition is not yet used) This will allow you to more customize your House by setting specific strengths and weaknesses
    • 200 points can be allocated across 7 tradition categories in increments of 5 from a low of 5 to a high of 90
  • Added: Alert Bar Severity Filter
    • 4 buttons can be toggled on/off to filter out levels of alert: Low, Medium, High, and Critical
    • Added hooks to add scope filter buttons in next update (Character, Planet, System, Province, Empire)
  • Added: Additional Help Screens/Tooltips
    • Finished all side screens and most panels
    • Added tooltips to setup screens
  • Added: Admin Ratio
    • This ratio determines a large part of the planet’s unrest level. A 100% ratio is one EMPLOYED average Government Pop at 50 skill for every 10 Pops. Below that, unrest increases. Above that, unrest decreases
    • Added the value on the Demographic Screen to track
  • Changed: Claim System Project Functionality
    • The Claim System Project now is REQUIRED in order to build a colony in a system. You can’t just set up a colony in a far-flung world, you have to put in the political foundation to make sure that your claim and your properly is recognized.
    • Once you Claim a system, you can create a Colony Project there.
    • There can be any number of Houses that have a Claim on a system, but only certain Houses may build in a system. One House has the Primary Claim on a star system, and they control the system capital and the revenue cut that goes to the System Governor (typically 15% of a system’s revenues).
    • The Primary Claim House can (not yet, but soon) give a Colony Claim to a House that basically acts as a letter that allows that House to create one Colony in the system. This will be a major diplomatic boon that you can give to a House to help with diplomacy.
    • You can try to Claim a populated System, but know that this will usually drop your relationship level. If you are successful, you will have the Primary Claim on the system and you will own the system capital as a Holding. If you are not successful, you will have a loss of Power and a very pissed off House(s) to answer to. Only try to claim a System politically if you have a massive Holding imbalance, as a large part of the formula is the Planet Value sum of both Houses. Having 2 or 3 high-value Planets with significant development is worth more than 5 lumps of rock.
  • Changed: Planet Value System
    • Planets now have an overall Value, that is used to calculate House Power, Claim Challenges, and Migration targets, among other things. You can now see this value in the Planet View in any Command Mode. It takes into account not only the planet size and type, but the development, Pops, skill level, and economy. Uninhabited planets still have a value but it will be much lower since it will be based on potential, not development.

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • UI: Cleaned up setup screens so that they flow better
  • UI: Will not let you proceed in setup until you have entered all needed information

BUG FIXES

  • Fixed (for reals) bug where you could not access budget in following year
  • Fixed issue where you could not click on planet with a planet with rings next to it
  • Fixed planets with rings rotating weirdly
  • Fixed text error with next turn button
  • Fixed issue where you could not select New Colony without the star being part of a province. You need that for an outpost, but not for a new colony (the colony will create a new province if it’s in a new constellation)
  • Fixed some scaling issues with the Project Screen
  • Fixed an insidious bug with Project Button generation that could occur if any House had a duplicate Project that they were trying to do – it would not always let you.

 

7.1.2 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: UI: Supply Network System View
    • This view is the default currently on the Economic Command Mode in Galaxy View. It will show at a glance the status of your supply network to move goods to your civ capital.
    • Works like a hub/spoke system – lines go from system trade hubs to province trade hubs to the civ trade hub. Wider lines are higher-level connections
    • 4 colors determine status of connection:
      • Green – good – trade hub is actively sending goods to their higher trade hub
      • Yellow – Viceroy is cautious – there are goods to send but the Viceroy on the planet has determined that they need the goods more on the planet
      • Orange – No goods to send – There are no goods to send through the trade network at this time
      • Red – Will not send – The system governor has interdicted all planets in this system from sending goods through the supply network
    • No line means there is no connection to the main supply network (e.g. not connected to a trade hub, no trade hub in the system)
  • Added: Region Detailed Info Panel
    • Comes up as a popup panel on the Planet View in Overview Command Mode when you mouseover a given region
    • Shows a lot of information about the region under the tooltip, including the region mineral and bio values, the current/max population, unemployment, happiness, pop census, generated goods, and goods per pop.
    • Informational only; I used it to validate a lot of changes I made to the world generation process but you can use it to see in more detail what’s happening on your planets!
  • Changed: Planet Initialization process
    • Rewrote the code to factor in each region’s strengths and weaknesses when adding facilities. For example, now in a mountain region, it will look to add mines much more than farms and admin (if any) while on plains and grasslands, farms will be much more common. This has the effect of better utilizing the planet and ensuring that facilities are put in the places where they would be the most effective
    • Pops will be better generated to take advantage of the existing infrastructure, so there should be a better ratio of Pops to relevant facilities
    • Lowered habitability across the board to reduce the number of Pops in the game, but your civ capital will still have almost 1 billion people (by design)
  • Changed: Skill Adjustments for Characters in existing positions, especially Primes
    • In the previous build, Characters were selected randomly and assigned roles with no regard for skills. This was intentional to simulate a decadent Empire where cronyism has run rampant. In talking to some players, however, some of the characters border on inept which can severely cripple your Empire early in the game. I have mitigated this by giving some relevant bonuses to positioned Characters when they are assigned (for example, Finance Primes now have a 30-60 point bonus to Economic Skill, plus a small boost in Intelligence). This has resulted in better balance without creating elite ruling councils.
    • Viceroys and Governors also receive Intelligence boosts, which will improve their overall Skills
    • Higher chance for an additional Admin point (Admin skill is super important for skills because it represents the character’s ability to not only delegate their knowledge but propagate it through skillful government.
  • Added: UI: House Claim Panel
    • Supporting last week’s changes to the Claim system, this panel is below the system information and shows all Houses who have a Claim on the system. The Primary Claim holder will still be on the right of the panel, but will also show in the Claim Panel.
  • Changed: Relationship Generation
    • Changed system to now consider House relationship. Before, it would just take into account Culture, whether you were in the same House or at least the same Culture Ring, and certain matching Traits. This should result in less ‘island allies’ in Houses that you have a poor relationship with

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • UI: Added a few more tooltips, mainly for new additions in the last 2 versions
  • Balance: Some reworking of Region values for Habitability and Minerals
  • Balance: Reworked the production values for minerals and food – now more should generally be produced
  • Balance: Lowered the mineral/energy values required for Projects across the board to allow the Houses to do more
  • Balance: Increased speed of Supply Fleets and Trade Fleets slightly
  • Balance: Mineral stockpiles on Planets are now adjusted to more accurately reflect the new facility placement system – in other words, Planets with more Mines will have more Materials, while Planets with more Farms will have more Food to start with and this will be more pronounced

BUG FIXES

          • Fixed numerous issues with the trade system. Now all planets that should be able to participate in the supply network will do so. See the Supply Network System View for more information.
            • Fixed some trades not happening when they should have
            • Fixed some Viceroys not sending any trades when they should have
            • Fixed issue where even after a system governor had agreed to send goods, they would not do so
          • Fixed issue with Recruit Specific Pop Action – would not work properly for merchants – bonus was not being added. Will work now.
          • Fixed UI issues with Pop subsidy to recruit specific Pops – colors would not change properly across different selected planets on Migration Panel
          • Fixed issues with Outposts not initializing properly
          • Fixed rare bug where the galaxy would generate way too many Houses and Characters, causing a crash
          • Fixed issue where the Admin Bonus on Projects was not taken properly into account, causing major differences in estimated time to complete Project vs. actual time
          • Optimized Migration algorithm – it was using SortedList to do its thing, which is super slow relative to other options, so reworked it to use List and Dictionary and it should be faster now (turn times with 15 planets take about 15 seconds now)
          • Fixed issue with House AI where it would not consider other Houses in a system when making a claim.
          • Fixed issue with House AI where it could build a colony or outpost in another House’s Claimed system without permission
          • Added ability for House AI to consider relative worth of uninhabited systems when considering what to Claim. This should fix issues where a House claimed a more or less worthless system (no planets, only gas giants, etc)

 

7.2.0 Changelog Notes – WIP

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: Comm System
    • This is the start of what will eventually be the Intel System.
    • You will have comms from Characters that periodically appear in the Alert Bar (they are critical alerts) and you will have 3 turns to answer them before they disappear.
    • It costs 1 AP to answer (testing) and once you open a comm you can back out, but you can’t end the turn until you answer the Character! The comm button will turn red to remind you and the turn button will show red as well with the message (comm waiting)
    • If you have no APs, the button greys out to remind you that you have run out of time!
    • Currently, only House Leaders and Governors will generate comm requests – this will expand as the system grows
    • There are 2 types of comms: Requests and Demands. Requests are generally from friends and allies, while Demands are from Characters who have a poor opinion of you.
    • Demands will give a larger hit on the opposing character’s Trust and Grudge level, but giving in to a Demand will lower your Power.
    • Requests will only have a small hit if you can not do what they ask.
    • If the character is a House Leader, your Emperor Reputation will also suffer/benefit depending on your response
  • Added: Reworked Designation Panel
    • Reworked the panel to be more clear and in line with the rest of the UI
  • Changed: Star Sizes
    • Normalized the star sizes so that there wouldn’t be ‘tiny stars’ that were almost impossible to click on. There will still be star size variance but it has been normalized to be less extreme.

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • Added more tooltips
  • Tweaked unrest so that it is easier to fix – currently it is difficult to come back from high unrest unless the people leave – this is sometimes hard to do on very nice planets where Pops otherwise have issues.
  • Changed algorithm of House Claims to claim better systems
  • Removed the Constellation scaling function. It was causing more issues than it was worth. Now all constellations are the same general size, but all stars are where they should be, as well as saved games will have consistency with star placement.
  • UI: Made system panels smaller to be easier to see the bottom on smaller screens
  • UI: Added alert to Project Screen when there is no ADM allocated – you will not be able to start the Project until you add at least 1 ADM. Previously, you could start a Project with no ADM, with bad consequences
  • Sound: Removed the ‘static’ sound effect when you open the Character screen. Some people thought it was a bug.
  • Performance: Greatly increased Planet View Economic Command Mode performance. Should see frame rates now in line with other modes
  • UI: Increased the size of the Alerts so they are easier to read
  • UI: Removed the dead space on the Project Bar where the Choose Project button was. Now active projects move up to fill the space
  • UI: Updated the main screen – expanded the news panel to allow more room for news and re-centered the logo

BUG FIXES

  • Fixed numerous issues with Project ADM. Several inconsistencies with not using the right travel type (Fleet or Administrator), not properly adding the travel time, not calculating the administrator effect properly, and causing projects to be much shorter in time than otherwise should be. There should now be consistency with the estimated time and what the time actually is in the Project Bar
  • Fixed long-standing issue with Projects taking essentially infinity to complete, caused by ADM being calculated incorrectly on the Project Screen
  • Fixed bug where you could not level up Starbases and Logistical Stations
  • Fixed bug where you could assign a system to a Province when it was already assigned
  • Fixed several draw logic issues that led to much faster frame rate at the planet level
  • Fixed refresh issues that sometimes didn’t refresh the system and planet information panel on the bottom-center of the screen when changing to a new planet/system
  • Fixed multiple bugs with comm system during test builds
  • Removed a few obsolete Projects that no longer use current game mechanics, but were still available to select
  • Fixed (hopefully!) rare hang bug where a turn never finishes fully generating, even though you can move around and do things
  • Other small UI fixes

7.3.0 Changelog Notes – WIP

5.6.19

 

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: Monarch Rating
    • Your Emperor will now have a title, commiserate with their Power, Love, and Fear. There are 35 different titles that your Emperor can have. This doesn’t affect gameplay, but it is a cool step into the Emperor system that will be added in .8
  • Action: Request House Favor. You can now ‘petition’ a Character from a certain House to speak favorably of your interests at their House court. The more powerful the Character and the more they like you, the more effective this will be, and you will see a positive reputation boost. Keep in mind that this will reduce your Power (emperors should not be seen to be groveling for help) and if you fail, you will take a negative reputation hit (and lose even more Power!)
  • Added: Bypass Patch Check
    • If you can update your game, you will get a prompt to patch (Y/N). If you choose N, you can bypass the patch process and go straight to the game.
    • Fixed code that would continue to check for a patch when there was no internet connection.
  • Added: Several UI improvements
    • Added more streamlined button selection, added more info on the Planet Info panel, streamlined the Economic Main Display on the planet view, and cleaned up several tooltips so they do not cover up the icons
    • Removed Emperor from System/Planet COC view in preparation for Emperor UI coming soon
  • Changed: Major Optimization Changes
    • Now should consistently get 50-70 FPS on neutral computer on small or medium maps
    • Time to generate turn has dropped to 10-15 seconds on small maps; < 20 on medium maps
    • New game launch takes around 30 seconds now
    • Planet view in particular has been improved performance-wise

 

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • Added more Requests/Demands
  • Added more AI modes for House
  • Added more AP since you are starting to be able to do more, you will need more AP to effectively play the game.
  • Increased output of factories
  • Normalized starting relationships with characters – you will have fewer friends and allies, but also fewer vengeance and vendetta (should be almost none, really, since you’re kind of a blank slate)
  • Added a debug window for the patcher to help track down any issues

 

BUG FIXES

  • Fixed issue where you could not fire or request all Primes to step down, now you can
  • Fixed issue where Primes did not have the right tooltips, now they do
  • Fixed issue where Primes had full access to Assignment Actions, now they have been reduced appropriately
  • Fixed several issues where you should not have intel on planet, but could still see either value or ratings
  • Fixed issue where panels would not update if you didn’t select a different planet
  • Fixed issue where you could not see House Icons on character selection for certain Actions
  • Fixed a few text formatting issues with Action responses

Other small fixes

 

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Threats, Favors, and Requests… The Comm System At Work!

Hey everyone!

This is Steve, here with another exciting dev diary. Last week, I talked about the Plot system as one part of the Intel system. The Comm system is sort of the other major part that will be integrated over the next month or so. It’s very exciting, and here’s why!

If you’ve been playing, you’ve probably noticed that communication is a one-way street. You have to initiate all the talking. The Comm system will change all that – you will soon be getting requests from House Leaders, Viceroys, Governors, and even the common courtier! You are free to respond or ignore any or all comm request, but if you don’t respond, the Character will see it as an insult. Anyway, here’s how it works.

At the start of a given turn, there are 3 main types of Comms that can be generated: Threats, Favors, and Requests.

  • THREATS don’t start appearing until at least 15 turns into the game, once you’ve had a chance to establish a baseline of behavior towards characters and Houses. When they start, a threat is basically a demand that you can either accept (do) or refuse (don’t). Examples can be as simple as a request for materials or money all the way to requesting a Governorship or Primeship, or even a whole Planet/System for a given House! As Emperor, you will see the results of your decision. If you accept, you will improve the relationship with that Character/House but at the cost of some personal Power (you are seen to have given in) and if you refuse your relationship may plummet, and a possible Plot may activate depending on the magnitude of the request.
  • FAVORS are things that you can request of a Character that you are willing to do. It will be an Personal Action that you can take. Basically, you’re letting a character know that ‘you owe them one’. This has the effect of a major relationship increase. When they are ready to ‘cash in’, usually within 10 turns, they will comm you with what they would like. They are generally less onerous than threats, but not honoring them will cause your Power and Love to drop (nobody likes a welshing Emperor!) and your relationship will suffer greatly. In addition, your overall Trust rating will drop throughout the Empire and characters will be less likely to allow you to grant a Favor in the future. Note that Characters will not ask for Favors of you, just respond to offers to them. If you never offer a Favor, you will never get a Favor request.
  • REQUESTS are straightforward requests, usually from House Leaders or Viceroys, for a need that that planet/House needs. Fulfilling the request will lead to a nice Relations bump, while declining will not hurt your Power, just tarnish your relations slightly with that Character.

These Comm requests will show up in the Alert Bar using the character’s portrait, an icon for the Comm type, and a countdown timer showing how long you have to answer the Comm before you take a significant relationship hit. There is no AP cost to answering a Comm request, but you can not ‘back out’ once you open it up – you have to answer for good or ill!

This system, along with the Plots system, should bring some life to the world of AotSS. Finally, you will not be the only one driving the events of the world. You will be able to shape it and Characters will start to respond and react to your actions in the world, and you will have to deal with the consequences of pissing off powerful people in AotSS beyond their simple refusal to help/support you. I am really excited about it, especially since the XML format of the Comms make it easy to create dozens of new Comms in a relatively short period of time! This will also be the backbone for the Events system, coming closer to .8 (it will use much of the same UI).

Here’s a preview of what the comm will look like (WIP):

Communication Requests Mock

More to come next week, but until then please don’t forget to download the latest update – .7.1.2b!

-Steve

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It’s Time To Plot… But Not what you Think!

Hello everyone! Steve here, with a new dev diary. I know, it’s been a little while, but I’ve been busy with putting out some quality of life updates and bug fixes. It’s almost time to start a whole new system… and I’m super excited!

For the next several weeks, I’m going to be talking about the next major system to be installed in AotSS – the intel system! Some of the initial parts have already been completed, such as rolling intel on character’s traits and skills, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Plots, Rumors, and Secrets are about to come in a big way!

Let’s talk about Plots first. Despite the nefarious-sounding name, Plots are not necessarily always about killing the Emperor. (Though they certainly can be!) Think of it like something that a Character wants to accomplish within the game. It can be as simple as acquiring a title, all the way to knocking off a House Leader or even you!

A Plot has 4 parts:  Target (what they want to accomplish/get/achieve), Help (who they can get to assist them with it), Method (what strategy(ies) they are willing to use to accomplish it)  and Time (how long they are willing to take to accomplish the Plot). Plots generate Secrets (intel that can be gained to uncover a Plot) and Rumors (intel that can lead to discover who is involved, but are not as reliable as Secrets).

Let’s see how this system works with a real-world example. Say a Character wakes up one fine morning and they decide they want to get a new job that pays better than their own job. That’s their Target. Their Help would be possibly their friends, their LinkedIn contacts, their former bosses, their family, etc. They need to get a new job within a month, and will stop looking if they don’t find a better job after that time. That’s Time. Depending on what kind of person they are and the skills they have, they might go on a spate of interviews, carefully target one company that they really want to work for, or even start a rumor that gets someone fired from the job that they want, and then they arrive to save the day! That’s Method.

Now, during all this, if their best friend who is actively helping them get in the door tells someone about their job search, that’s a Secret. They have first-hand information about the Plot (since they’re part of it) and thus anyone investigating what they’re doing can plug in that information to better understand what’s happening. If, however, my coworker heard from their coworker who heard from their best friend that they were looking for a job, that’s a Rumor. It might be true, or it might not. Think of it as potentially flawed information.

So, if I’m an Emperor trying to figure out what this Character is doing (since they are hostile to me, for example, and have a high Power) I would begin by possibly sending an Inquisitor Squad to their planet to investigate. They will then pick up Rumors and Secrets, and slowly they will begin to fill in any Plots that they might be hatching. There are 4 levels of intel to Plots:

  • No Plot Intel means that there is no knowledge whatsoever, and it won’t even show up in their Plot Panel as an option to track.
  • Basic Plot Intel means that there is knowledge that a Plot exists, and you can start to investigate people attached to that Plot.
  • Moderate Plot Intel means that there is enough information about the Plot to act – meaning you have at least the Target and Help. Time and Method are optional, but the more you know the better chance you have to stop the Plot.
  • Max Plot Intel means that you know everything about the Plot with full accuracy, meaning that either someone confessed, or the Plot was stopped.

So, returning to our above example, let’s say that I was suspicious about this Character, and I thought he was trying to start a Plot to kill me or someone close to me. So, I set an Inquisitor Squad to the planet where he currently is, with orders to ‘Investigate a Possible Plot’. This is the default order when you have no knowledge of a Plot. After 2-3 turns, they might uncover a Secret or a Rumor. That info gets added to the Plot Log and would look something like this:

Viceroy Biggs is trying to get a new job that is better than the old one. We have heard that System Governor Blossom may be included in this Plot.”

So there can be up to 4 ‘pieces’ of intel per Plot. Green means that it is a Secret (high confidence) while Yellow means that the intel is a Rumor (low confidence) This would be a Moderate Plot Intel because while you know that a Plot exists, you have a Target, and Help, even if it’s not confident.

Once you believe you have at least a Moderate Intel Plot, you can act by either doing nothing, attempting to blackmail the parties involved, or if the plot is Illegal, having them openly arrested. At that point, an Inquiry is held, led by the Grand Inquisitor. If the Character is found guilty, they are executed or imprisoned depending on the Severity of the Plot. If the Character is found innocent, they are freed, you lose an amount of Power consummate with the Characters that you set to Inquiry, and they will have a huge grudge against you, as well as a nice Power boost representing public anger at your high-handed tactics.

So in the above example, since it is a Moderate Intel Plot, you are free to act on it, but if you’re wrong and you send an Inquisitor Squad to arrest the people ‘involved’ and it turns out after an Inquiry that you were wrong… sometimes the risk is too great even compared to doing nothing. But if you wait too long for further evidence, you risk the Plot developing and completing, doing what it’s supposed to do… even if the Target is you.

Another way to gain Secrets and Rumors is by talking to Characters who you think may be connected to the Plot. When you “Get to Know Character”, depending on their skills, they may just tell you something that adds to a Plot Intel – maybe one you didn’t even know was brewing!

The more you devote towards Intel, the more Inquisitor Squads you can train and maintain, as well as having a stronger low-level intel net. You will get Alerts about new Plot info, and a Critical Alert when a Plot moves to Max Intel or Moderate Intel.

So that’s the basic system about Plots – more to come soon! Enjoy!

-Steve

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Help Me, Rhonda: The In-Game Help Dilemma

Hey everyone!

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:

  1. 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
  2. A larger help screen for each panel that explains what you do in this panel and how to do it – In for .7.1
  3. A grand vizier window that reviews current goals, opportunities, gives advice, and game progress – In as of .7.0.3
  4. A grand vizier chat for each screen that gives advice on what to do with this panel and some strategies – TBA
  5. An in-game Alliancopedia (working title) that goes into detail into concepts, history, Houses, etc). – TBA
  6. 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!

Steve

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Dev Update 2.2.19: The Living Galaxy, and a Lack of Control

Hey everyone!

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!

Until next week!

-Steve

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The Humble Viceroy: Your Field Guide

Hello!

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:

Rural Triglav, in the Kathy System

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?

Not a great economy.

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.

Thanks for reading!

-Steve

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Now that .7 is out… what’s next? A sneak peak of .7’s evolution!!

Hey everyone!

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!

-Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow.

-Steve