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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow.

-Steve

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.6.3.0 Out Shortly!! Tons of new Features

Hey everyone!

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

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

 

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News Of The Week

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your interest!

-Steve