Well, I’ve been sick so I haven’t been able to record a video (my voice is kind of shot) but I did want to show some of what we’ve been working on the last few weeks! Below is a mosaic of some new stuff in AotSS… enjoy!!
Hello everyone! In advance of the LP that will be out later tonight, I wanted this week’s DD to be focused on a new concept that’s really pretty neat, I think, and certainly unique to 4X-type games. I will be going over the economic system in detail, but because it’s pretty intricate, I will be going over chunks at a time, so as to dive more in depth into each system. First, retail!
So, to understand where retail fits into the planet economy, you have to know that all planets have a Gross Planetary Product (GPP) that is comprised of 4 ‘parts’: the ‘base’ GPP, retail revenue, trade revenues, and import costs. This GPP is used throughout the year to set an import budget (to allow the viceroy to know how much they can/should spend on imports) and to improve the ADL (Average Development Level) of the planet by building infrastructure. While most of the ‘economy’ is based on goods and materials, the GPP of the planet is important for one critical reason: it funnels tax money back to the empire (and by proxy, you), the province governor, the system governor, and the viceroy. Since money and power are two lifebloods of AotSS, it is critical that both the Empire (and you) and Houses have as much as possible. Poor planets are worth very little, and provide very little wealth and power to Houses who Hold them.
With that in mind, let’s talk more about retail. So in AotSS, retail is somewhat abstract, and is based around 4 things: merchants, their skill, the planet’s ADL, and the number of Pops on a planet. (There are some other things that can affect this, like Viceroy skills and traits, or planet traits, but these are the main levers.) Basically, the idea works like this:
1. CALCULATE THE MONTHLY ALLOCATIONS TO THE RETAIL SECTOR: A yearly percentage of a planet’s stockpile of food and energy (and basic if the viceroy or emperor allow it; heavy and rare materials are mostly used for military and space technologies and would not be widely available for retail as we know it). For this example, let’s say 4% is the hold percentage that the viceroy has selected for their planet. So by using the formula (x * .04) / 10 (for 10 months per AotSS year) we can calculate how many goods are put ‘on the market each month.
Let’s work our way through an example on the planet Argus. If we assume, say 10,000 food units are in Argus’s planetary stockpile, and we’re holding 4% yearly, calculating the monthly food units available for retail on Argus comes to 40 units (10,000 * .04) / 10 = 40.
2. DETERMINE THE MERCHANT EFFICIENCY: The next step is determining how effective your merchants (and remember, these are merchant POPS, not individual merchants, representing a million units with an average skill level and culture between them) are in actually selling the goods to the citizen Pops on the planet. So while I’m not going to give the exact calculations, I will give enough information so that you understand how best to utilize retail. The merchant efficiency (ME) is calculated using the merchant skill and total merchants on the planet to determine a ratio from .01 to 3.0. To get the best ratio, you need either a lot of Merchant Pops or highly skilled Merchant Pops (there is a bonus to efficiency after 50 Skill, 50 is average, and below 50 is a malus).
For the purposes of this example, let’s say the ME on planet Argus is .35 (there are only 20 Merchant Pops, and their average skill is 41).
3. DETERMINE REVENUES FROM EFFICIENCY: So now you’ve got a set amount of food out on the market, and you have an efficient (or not so much) merchant corps distributing it throughout the planet. Great! There’s 2 other things that determine how much the planet actually wrings from a given retail network: the good price on that planet, and the ADL of the planet. Since ADL is derived mostly by the types of Pops that are on a planet, you’re going to have scientists and engineers who make more money going out to expensive restaurants and buying nutritious organic food, not your miners and farmers. So: the higher the ADL, the more money made.
So for our example, on Argus it’s a nice planet and there are a lot of scientists, government folk, and engineers, so the ADL is 17 (pretty high). After determining how much of the food is actually sold, the result is 11.5 units (Available Food Units / Merchant Efficiency) * (Average Merchant Skill / 50). That’s a lot of wasted food. So the last step is to determine how much revenue is made from those 11.5 units planet wide. We simply multiply the amount of goods by the current food price on the planet (we’ll say $.10 to keep it easy), and add a variable for the ADL (17) and… congratulations! Your merchants made $19.5 billion crowns (BC) from food this month!
4. DETERMINE THE PLANET’S CUT: Great! You now have your merchants out on the planet, hopefully finding a market for the finest food and finding buyers for every bit of goods you have allocated. One last thing: what part of that amount goes to the GPP? Easy. There’s a commerce tax that is set by the viceroy that determines how much of the profits the merchants make stay in their pockets. Keep the tax low? Not as many revenues, but your merchants will love it (and will stay, increasing their skills, and a planet with such a progressive tax structure for humble merchants will attract other, good merchants as well). Jack up the tax? You’ll get a quick spike in revenue, but be prepared for merchants, grumbling about oppressive fees, leaving for greener pastures. And your other Pops won’t love it either as their favorite retail establishments close up shop as well, leading to unrest and lowered Popular Support. So smart viceroys do not increase this tax too high unless there’s dire need. This is changed every year at the start of the year, like all other taxes and the Imperial Budget.
So for Argus, the viceroy set the commerce tax at 15%, so the empire’s cut (what goes to GPP that month) in food is only $2.9 BC. That’s our final number!! Remember that the same calculations are made for your energy sector and (if you have allowed it) basic materials as well.
So what happens to the goods that don’t sell? Well… they’re gone. That’s why it’s important to not set your retail allocation very high especially on a new planet. You won’t have the Pops or Merchants to support tons of retail, and the goods that are unsold are basically wasted. And if you waste too many goods, you risk running low on food or energy (or Basic) which creates its own issues. So don’t be greedy – you can overrule the viceroy on any given planet, and usually they’ll be OK with it unless you try to set the value too high, but be judicious. Also, you have the option to allow your Basic stockpile to be released to the retail allocation and since prices on basic units tend to be much higher than food or energy, this can be a quick way to boost your retail sector.
So some of you may be asking – can the retail sector cause prices to change? No. Remember that on a global scale, retail in this futuristic economy is not as all-encompassing as what we know today. Even 15% of stockpile allocation of a given good on a planet is extremely high, and that’s a yearly allocation. It’s not enough of a lever to move prices one way or another. But don’t fret. It’s possible, and I’ll describe how to manipulate prices of goods on the next DD.
So that’s a decently detailed explanation of how retail works. Now the real question: How can you, as emperor, affect the retail engine on any given planet? Several ways, in fact. Here’s just a few – you can use your imagination for others (that’s why it’s called strategy!)
A tooltip will give you your monthly allocation of goods and the merchant efficiency so you know how you’re doing there. Remember, if it’s low, you need either a) fewer goods b) more Merchant Pops c) better Merchant Pops d) lower Population.
That’s all for today! LP coming in hot – look for it as well! And next week: How goods work in the economy, what each good does, and how you can manipulate them all like a champ!
Hi all, Oliver here, with an update on the new features in our latest alpha build! Steve’s been hard at work on the Culture and Idea systems – aspects of your population which affect many different systems in-game.
The Ideas system revolves around eleven different hot-button issues of the 31st century – from tolerance of genetically-engineered human subspecies, to trust in technology, to the proper attitude to war – and each individual Pop and character has their own opinion on each one. This, in turn, affects their support for different Projects, Reforms, and other actions you can undertake – giving each of your decisions political ramifications. You may find you need to soften up a particular constituency with propaganda before you push through a particularly unfashionable Reform, or throw them a bone afterwards to placate their dissatisfaction; perhaps a character you need to run your grand Project is an implacable ideological opponent of it, forcing you to find a way to seduce or blackmail them into getting the job done.
The main determinant of a Pop or Character’s Ideas is their Culture. Human Space contains many diverse ways of life, with their own traditions, names, styles of dress, and so on – each of which is represented in-game with unique character names and portraits, ranges of Ideas, unique Reforms that can be implemented once that Culture is integrated into your empire, and more. But Cultures are not passive entities – there can be inter-cultural and inter-religious tensions on your worlds, leading to conflict and even full-on civil war. You must carefully consider how best to resolve these situations as you lead the Celestial Empire.
Alongside these systems, we’ve been hard at work polishing up our existing ones, creating content to plug into the game, and more. Next week, we’ll have a video update for you. Until then, Ave Imperator!
Hi all, Oliver here, with our first mockup of the military screen!
This mockup – which Ogi produced in Unity, meaning that the finished article will look a lot like this – shows a massive battle happening on a planet. Your forces, arrayed down the left-hand side, are ranged against the enemy, in red on the right. Each Force can have up to six units – which might be anything from ground-pounding local militia to massive starships and superweapons – each of which has its own Captain, under the command of the Force’s General. At the bottom of the screen, just above the ‘selected Force’ panel, you can see a tooltip for a unit, showing its strength (or damage dealt last turn, as this is a battle!), its health and the damage it took last turn, its icon (currently a khaki blob, but we’re working on it) and its Captain. You have to think carefully about who to put in charge of your units and Forces – military skill can turn the tide of an entire war, but a disloyal Captain might leak secrets to the enemy, making your Force much more vulnerable to interception and attack, while a disloyal General might run off with the whole Force!
As well as your commanders’ loyalty, though, you have to consider the loyalty of their troops. Every Force has a single homeworld, and the affection of the Pops on that homeworld for you and for their commander determines the loyalty of the troops they support. You can think of the troops as simply their homeworld’s Pops, abroad. Thus, if you oppress a Force’s homeworld, you’d better watch out – sedition in the ranks can lead to civil war. If, on the other hand, you have a Force from a world that loves you to pieces, you can be relatively sure that their General won’t be able to run off with them – unless they impress them sufficiently with their charisma and command ability. Even where the Force is posted matters – a Force far from their homeworld will be much less able to join in rebellions there. All these considerations – inspired by the troubles of the classical Republic of Rome – will impact on your military decisions as Emperor.
Now to return to the battle screen , you can see that at the top of the screen, just under the Action Points counter and button, you can see the planetary Devastation and the balance of power. The balance of power shows which way the war is going – wars on planets can take a number of turns to complete, as each turn represents a month, creating a strategic back-and-forth as you redirect your fleets and try to prosecute or stymie an invasion. Devastation represents the horrors war inflicts on the poor, suffering population of the planet. It drives waves of refugees from the planet, dramatically depresses its economy, and outright kills Pops. Certain units will cause more Devastation than others – in particular, Xyl forces will wipe out every human they come across. Wars can have wide-ranging consequences in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, far beyond diplomacy and conquest, and as Emperor you will have to find a way to handle them – for better or worse.
I hope you enjoyeed this preview of the military system – until next week, Ave Imperator!
Hi all, Oliver here! Today we’re showing off our first mockups of the Intrigue view. In this mode, you encounter the seedy underbelly of your court – the plots, the schemes, the secrets and lies! And this isn’t just a spy-assignment minigame, oh no. The idea is to collect parts of secrets (for example, ‘Baron Nogood is plotting something with Count Crapula’ ‘Count Crapula is plotting an assassination against somebody‘ ‘Baron Nogood is plotting something against you’) and try to match them together into accusations that your Inquisitors can use to take out the culprits (such as ‘Baron Nogood and Count Crapula are plotting to assassinate you’). But how, I hear you ask, do you actually do this?
The way we have it working is very simple. On each planet, system, and star (on which more later) you have a list of Clues – incomplete pieces of information, displayed like sentences with character portraits in place of names and so on – and at the bottom of the screen, in the selection area, you have the cases you’re currently working on. Clues are supplied by your Inquisitors’ diligent monitoring work, gossip you hear or overhear at court, and characters you charm or coerce into revealing them. Each clue also has one or two leads – characters who are listed as potentially knowing other, connected clues. You just click-and-drag the clues you think belong together into the selection area to put together your accusation, and when you’re confident you’re right, you can click ‘ACCUSE’ and fire it off! You’ll choose which of your limited number of Inquisitors to send it with, and shortly (or immediately if they’re in the same place) you’ll hear the outcome…
Now the Imperial Inquisition is a unique and frightening institution. They will never convict an innocent man – this is the reason the Great Houses allowed the institution to continue – but the experience is nightmarish for the accused. If found innocent, they and their family will despise you not only for the insult, but for the accused’s having to endure the mind-bending horrors of the Inquisitorial process. So beware!
One thing you might still be wondering is: ‘Why have separate lists of clues on each system and planet? Surely it would be less of a pain in the ass to just have one big list?’ While we do indeed have one big list available in the summary screen (accessible from a button in the top left of the screen), the point of dividing up clues this way is to prioritise them. At the start of the game, when you’re mostly dealing with individual planets, the doings of individual characters on those planets will be of paramount interest. But as your empire grows, you’re going to be moving up through the levels of control, simply because you only have so many Action Points in the turn. By hooking the clues to game locations, putting clues to bigger and more important plots at higher levels, we can make the same process of moving up through the levels that you’re engaged in with regard to the other facets of gameplay work here, too.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy playing with the Intrigue system! Ave Imperator!
Been a few weeks since we’ve posted but we’ve been very busy. We’re closing in on the massive .4 milestone with the completely revamped UI system. We’ve also refined the trade system, the migration system, and added the full Action and Project systems, which are critical for how you as Emperor interact with the game. We’ve also refined our art assets and have started working on the conversation and help system (tooltips, tutorial process, etc) and removed a lot of bugs. So any videos that you’ve seen in the last 2 months, you can pretty much throw out because the game looks very different at this point.
On top of that, though, there’s one big change we’re announcing today. I have used the name ‘Imperia’ since I started working on the game when it was a hobby, and at that point it didn’t make much difference what the game name was since I never intended to sell it (or even release it publicly, at first). Once we became serious about the game, however, we started looking at potential issues with the name. There is a game called Imperia Online that has been around for almost 11 years, and although the games are wildly different in type and scope, we decided to go a different direction so as to avoid confusion with that game. Plus, having a truly unique name will help with search results and not ‘cover us up’ as we are a much smaller game.
But the biggest reason for the name change, simply, is because the new name better reflects more accurately your goal as Emperor. Your ultimate ambition is to reform the shattered Celestial Empire in order to prepare it for mankind’s final test: the Xyl. Because of this, and since much of the background story is rooted in religion and mysticism, we felt that Alliance of the Sacred Suns was more appropriate as to tell the story of the game and your role as the Emperor.
So we’ll be rebranding in stages. We will be creating a new web site that brings together all the parts of the game universe (the blog, the forum, and the wiki) and create a one-stop shop site under www.allianceofthesacredsuns.com shortly. We will announce when the site is live. We will leave redirects from the old Imperia-titled links for a while to ease the transition, but it is our hope that by the end of the year most people are using the unified web site.
We’ll be releasing a new video shortly (probably this weekend) to showcase the new UI and game play. In addition. we’ll be featured on Space Game Junkie on August 23rd at 5:30 PM PST to show .4 and the early work on .5! More on this soon.
Thanks for your support while we’ve transitioned and worked hard on the game: we’re a small studio (essentially 2 people plus contract talent) so we don’t always have time to update the blog and forums as much as we should, but rest assured we’re working hard to bring AotSS to you as soon as possible!
As always, Long Live the Celestial Empire,
Hello everyone! It feels like it’s been a while since we last spoke, but we’ve been busy revamping the UI system from the ground up, as well as tightening the gameplay and design. We’re almost ready to send .4 out, and we hope to feature it on a podcast soon (Details forthcoming) but for now, we wanted to show some more screenshots, talk about how the UI is evolving, and introduce our newest artist, Ogi Schneider! Ogi has helped us with our UI/UX setup, and helped us corral this huge game into a friendly and accessible interface, the first results which we will be showing below!
My name is Ogi Schneider, I was born in Switzerland and live currently in London. After my interactive entertainment Diploma I went to Germany to a Stuttgart based 3D visualization company for an internship in 3D modeling/animation/rendering which led to a full-time position, helping with visualization- and game-/interactive-projects. We released two game titles, Tower Tapper (mobile only) and Steamscope (mac/mobile).
After 3 years in Germany I went back to Switzerland, doing freelance jobs regarding 3D and texturing for Apps and Games. Next to freelancing I was also involved in two indie game projects, Sky Mercenaries (Steam) and Steel Rain (Steam). In 2015 I got the chance to start a paid internship in London as Graphic Designer, which led to a fulltime job doing mostly UI/UX-Design and some print- and web-design.
In May 2016 I started freelancing again and found this great job opportunity to work on the Imperia UI- and UX-Design, which is what I am currently working on.
We are excited to showcase some of the new UI design in the .4 build and talk about some of the reasons for the sea change in design. Please note that while these are all in-game screenshots, there are a few missing icons here and there, and things will most likely change/tweak over the course of development. Let’s show some screenshots!
These are the first pass of the new 3D setup screens. We will add a third screen for the emperor setup (name, House name, colors, crests, portrait) in an upcoming build soon. The panels are 3D and move in real-space. It’s a cool effect!
Here is the main screen, where you see all the new elements. The command bar is on the lower-left where you can change your command mode (economic, political, demographic, military) and an overview mode that would be the closest to a ‘traditional’ mode. On the right is your Project Bar, which will show all of your active Projects in the Empire and the available Projects for that level (province, system, planet mode). On the upper-right is your Empire stockpiles for energy and materials, used when you start a Project and for trade. The top center is your Emperor Status bar, which shows your remaining Action Points, your location, your Power rating, and your popular support. Finally, the upper-left shows the sub window buttons (Finance, Intel, Science, Emperor Diary, Overview/Stats) and your option menu.
Zooming in, you see the new stars and some of the new planets. This shows the new Economic Planet bar that shows the basic economic information. Other modes will have the relevant information about each planet for that mode. You are able to access the viceroys from each planet from these bars as well.
Here is the base Planet Screen – this is what you will see in each mode regardless of type. Your Chain of Command is always in the upper-left (you will see shortened versions of the COC on the system and province screens). This shows the tax revenue from the planet and who is getting how much. In the center is the viceroy window with a new chat log showing your conversation, and their basic info. The lower-center is the planet summary bar showing the high-level information about the planet. Keep in mind that we’re still tweaking what each panel shows and how much, but the look and feel is pretty much set.
When you are in a submode, you will have a window bar on the left that shows individual panels that can be opened and closed independently. These windows stay with the mode, meaning that you can have 2 windows open in eco mode, 3 windows open in demographic mode, etc. and they will stay open with the mode when you switch modes, even between planets. In this way, players can create a workspace that works best for them – different combinations of panels can be used for different views when they work within that mode! This shot shows all of the Economic windows open, but they can be closed independently as needed.
Here is the in-game Project Screen. You first select a Project from the bar on the right, which opens up the window seen here. You then select an Administrator by dragging and dropping their charcter card into the box, which will unlock a number of contributor slots equal to the skill of the administrator. You then drag and drop contributors until you have enough financial contribution and ADM to finish the project in a realistic amount of time, You can find characters by scope (planet/system, etc), House, or filter (ADM > 0, wealth > 0) and sort within the pages to bring the highest values to the top.
Here’s a Project that is ready to send, with an Admin and 2 contributors.
So we’re working now on the Character Screen. Not *quite* ready to show, but it will be ready to use and we’ll have a blog on that shortly. With the basic UI look and feel in place, we’ll be adding the rest of the modes shortly, along with the sub windows in the next .5 build!
Wanted to show you some WIP screens as we work on getting .4 out the door. It’s been a while, but we’ve made tremendous progress with the new build! We’re going to have all 3D planets and stars, a completely new UI, and we believe even easier ways to access the information you need in conjunction with the Command Modes! Anyway, with the exception of the Project Screen, all screenshots are from a live build of Imperia!
This is the mostly-ready-to-go main UI. Note the resource bar on the top, the Projects in progress bar to the left, and the sub screen buttons have been completely redesigned and moved to the upper-left, while the next-turn button has been segregated and the date added. The huge addition is the Emperor Status bar, with your remaining AP in bright white, as well as your Power, your Popular support, and your location in an immediate place to find always. We rebuilt the UI with the viewpoint that you, the player, are the Emperor and what is most important for you to know always?
This is the new WIP Projects Screen. Along with Actions that you do with Characters in the game, Projects are the most powerful tool you have to shape your Empire and change the game. They also define how you shape your relationships with your Characters – it is considered prestigious to be part of an important Project, but having different Characters from different Houses – especially ones that do not like each other – will slow down the progress. Actually creating a Project is as easy as dragging and dropping in an Administrator, then adding additional Contributors that add money and ADM to the project, and we wanted the window to reflect the information that you need to know, as well as creating several filter tools to best find certain Characters.
Also note the 3D planet spinning in the background with real-time lighting and lights depending on the level of civilization on the planet! (Yes, this stuff is not new, but for a small indie game we’re pretty proud of it!)
We now have a new front end as well – the pics don’t really do it justice, but everything you see is 3D and moving! The planets slowly spin around the sun, and the option panel is a 3D object. We’re not done tinkering with it yet but this will give you an idea of what we are shooting for…
The start of the Setup New Game screen. You will also be able to select your empire’s emblem here, as well as set the # of AI civilizations. The next step is where you will design your Emperor.
We’ll post more pictures soon, as well as a new video so you can see this stuff in motion! But we’re very excited about the direction of the UI in Imperia!
Well, we know what huge game just came out and hey, it’s Paradox and they make amazing games, so while everyone was out playing Stellaris (yes, we all got it as well, and played a LOT of it!) we are continuing to work on .4, otherwise known as The UI Release.
As you can see in the featured image, we’re revamping to the foundations, including fully-3D planets and stars that move, show rotating moons, and have their own light sources and show the amount of population and development on the planet! We’re also added a new artist to our stable, and he is doing incredible things for the UI design! You can see a preview of the ‘retro-futuristic’ look we’re going for above.
We’ve put a lot of time and effort into the command modes and the UI switches for each, revamped the galaxy view navigation, and worked on optimizing the system transitions.
We’ll be posting a more detailed blog about the redesign soon, along with a blog talking about the planets in Imperia – they are much more detailed beneath the surface then you might think!
Hello everyone! Steve here with a small blog about one of the subtle, but important UI design choices: the concept of Command modes.
When we revamped the game design, we put a lot of thought into the UI. Imperia is a game with a lot of information, and we wanted a system where a player could get that information easily – but within the context of what they were working on.
If you play strategy games, you tend to think in terms of ‘what do I want to do?’ These tasks can be anything from ‘raise taxes’ to ‘build a fleet’ to ‘put a building in the queue on my capital planet’. But you are almost always doing these things within a larger context; in other words, you’re trying to accomplish a larger strategic goal by doing tactical things. So we thought, What will players do most? We settled on 4 broad areas that we felt most players would assign strategic value in Imperia: economic, military, diplomatic, and demographic (pops), and created dedicated Command modes that focus player interaction on a particular area of strategy.
What this means in game terms is that if you select, say, Economic mode, then all map submodes, Actions, Projects, and data will be relevant to the economy of that view level, be it province, system, or planet.
So for example, if you are looking at a planet screen in Economic mode, you will see the taxes, production, trade to and from the planet, planet-level economic Projects in the Project bar, etc. If you move out of the planet screen, the system screen will have system trade, system-level economic Projects in the Project bar, and so on. Any submodes will be economic-related as well.
In essence, Command modes act as a smart filter so that you can act within the strategy you are pursuing without having to move ‘sideways’ in the UI. You can switch between command modes at any time, and for traditionalists there will be ‘override’ options that allows for Action- and Project-level filtering independent of the command mode (in other words, you can see all Projects for a planet even if you are in Military command mode) but we think most players will appreciate this setup once they start to play.
More to come soon, including some new screenshots!