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.7.4.0 Changelog Released!

Hey everyone!

HUGE update inbound! It should be out in the next day or so. Without further ado, here’s the list!

7.4.0 Changelog Notes – WIP

6.14.19

MAJOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES

  • Added: Intel System
    • Major new gameplay system has now been added and is about 80% complete. This will break down the highlights:
      • Inquisitors added
      • Intel Progress added
      • Intel Nexus screen added
      • Intel-related Projects added
      • Statistical/goal Intel added
      • Assignments and budgets added
      • Informers added
      • Empire Intelligence Centers added
      • Intel-related Actions added
      • Special Ops added
      • Fear-related effects added
    • Inquisitors
      • Inquisitors are actually squads of heavily weaponized, trained agents, of which there is a lead Inquisitor that is represented in the game. Inquisitors have 2 main stats, Espionage (affects Intel missions, Trial missions, and general survivability) and Special Ops (affects special operations such as assassinations, blackmail, intimidation, etc.) An Inquisitor can be set to several Missions:
        • Passive Intel – allows you to gather information slowly in a planet, system, or province range on characters that are currently residing within that range. This Mission will not raise Fear, as it is covert.
        • Active Intel – more aggressive than Passive Intel, this represents the Inquisitors using more, ah, direct means to gather information, including intimidation. This is far more effective in gathering Intel Progress on your target, but it will raise the Fear level significantly and the affiliated House/Character will take a very dim view of being actively investigated.
        • Training – Basically gives the squad additional XP per month which can lead to an increase in either the team’s Espionage or Spec Ops skill.
        • Stand Down – Inquisitor squads cost money to have active. This Mission will put the squad in reserve, and while it will not cost anything against your Intel budget, the squad will slowly lose experience, and eventually points off their ratings, In addition, the longer they have been stood down, the longer it takes to reactivate them.
      • Inquisitors can be assigned to 3 types of targets: Characters, Houses, or Planets. If they are assigned to a Planet, they can also set a Scope for Intel Missions: Planet, System, or Province. It takes several months for an Inquisitor to set up and find a new Target, which is represented in the Preparing For Mission status.
    • Intel Progress
      • Intel Progress is a 0-100 number that represents the progress made towards maximum Intel on a Target. Basically, the more IP on a Target, the more you know about the stats/plans/etc. Slowly decays over time if there is no active Informer presence or Intel mission attached to the Target.
    • Intel Nexus Screen
      • This screen will show you your budget for the year, the projected and current Inquisitor budget, the current Informer budget, and the status of all Inquisitor squads. You can change the mission and target of any Inquisitor from here, or disband them entirely.
    • Intel-related Projects
      • You can currently build or expand an existing Empire Intelligence Center up to level 3. You can only build EICs on capital worlds (system or province)
    • Statistical/Goal Intel
      • In conjunction with Intel Progress, this dictates everything you know about a Target – it determines what data you can see about a House/Character/Planet, how accurate that information is, and with the next update, it will give you information about possible Plots that the Character is involved in.
    • Assignments/Budgets
      • You will now be able to set the Intel Budget at the start of the year and see what needs to be allocated to keep all of your Inquisitor squads from disbanding due to not being paid in full! (Loyalty, after all, comes at a price.) Anything above what is required to fund your Inquisitors in full will be allocated as the Informer budget, which you can set on individual Planets as needed.
    • Informers
      • Informers are your low-level intel net made up of Pops who are willing to divulge information about Characters on Planets where they are active. They do not have an influence on Houses or Planets, but they are a relatively inexpensive way to maintain intel on Characters who stay on a certain Planet. They do not increase the Fear level, and their willingness to inform is based on the budget set for the planet, their Culture, and their Love for you. In other words, don’t expect Pops to spy for you if the vast majority of them hate you.
    • Empire Intelligence Centers
      • EICs are the hub of your Intel network. Here is where Inquisitors are trained and supported, and they also serve as a planetary nexus for intel. They have 2 main functions – they set the maximum number of Inquisitor squads you can have in the Empire (the total number of levels of EIC) and they act as an Intel-gathering entity that always works passively, even if you don’t have Inquisitors present. It does raise Fear on the planet it is built on, however, while Level II EICs can cover and provide passive intel for a system (and raise fear) and Level III EICs can cover a province (and raise more fear throughout). They are progressively more expensive to maintain, and their costs come out of the planet’s Infrastructure budget.
    • Intel-related Actions
      • You will be able to assign Spec Op Missions to Characters that have Inquisitors assigned through the Character Action UI. If that character has an Inquisitor attached that is set for Spec Op Prep, Missions will appear for that Character. If no Inquisitor is attached, the Intel tab will not appear at all!
    • Special Ops
      • You will be able to do several special ops. In this release, you will be able to do 2: Assassination and Blackmail. More Spec Ops will be available shortly.
      • You select these by first assigning an Inquisitor to a Character, then setting their mission to “Spec Ops Prep”. They will start accumulating Spec Op points. Once they reach certain thresholds, Spec Ops will start to show active. The higher points you have over the minimum, the more likely the chance for success, but beware – an inexperienced Inquisitor could be caught in the act preparing with a big hit to the Emperor’s Power and Fear!
    • Fear System
      • The Fear System has been added as a counterpoint to Love. Love represents the overall feeling that Pops have about you; a low Love rating is essentially a low public approval, while a high Love rating means they’ll run through walls for you. Fear works differently – the higher it goes, the more likely that unrest and riots will break out. Once fear goes higher than love, you are considered a tyrant and your titles will change appropriately. Tyrants must spend a tremendous amount of military to keep Fear high enough to keep the Empire stable, but keep in mind that while Fear will drop if you don’t continuously show force to your people, your Love will be very slow to increase once you’ve shown you rule tyrannically! This system will continue to evolve as the Military and Science/Reform systems are added.
    • Added: Intel UI
      • See above for more information. Includes empire, system, and planet level UI showing information about Informers, EIC level, Inquisitors on a planet/system, the chance of an Intel increase on any one Character on a planet, and more!
    • Added: New Action: Request Favor with House
      • Now you will be able to ask a House Character whom you have a strong relationship with to intercede on your behalf with their House Leader. If successful, your Positive Rep with that House will increase depending on their success.
    • Added: Claim System/Influence
      • Now you will have more information showing the Influence of each House on each system from the Political Command Mode on the Galaxy View. Each House will be shown in descending order of Influence on a system.
      • You can claim any System if you are the first to put in a Claim regardless of Influence, but you will probably annoy the House who has the most Influence, and if you do not quickly strengthen your claim, a House with more Influence will override your Claim and you will lose yours. To expand your Influence, you must colonize planets, build outposts, and build installations like Starbases, Logistical Networks, etc. Influence drops off sharply about 300 AUs from the system in question, then levels out as it continues to drop until Influence ends about 15K AUs from a given system.
      • Remember that you can not build in a System that you do not have a Claim on!
    • Added: Budget Subsidy From Imperial Treasury
      • Now you will be able to allocate money when you are setting the yearly budget from your Imperial Treasury to the budget by setting a slider next to the budget sliders. It costs 25 Power to do this (it’s a sign of weakness to have to dip into reserve funds) but will make your Pops slightly happier (you are willing to use your personal wealth to improve the lives of the people).
      • This can only be used during the yearly budget allocation, and does not have to be used at all!
      • If you go negative in your GPP at the end of the year, you MUST use this subsidy to bring the budget to at least 0 (i.e. you are not in debt). It will still cost 25 Power. If you can not do this, your Empire will collapse, you will be deposed, and you will lose the game.
    • Changed: Migration Balance
      • Now Pops will migrate when they are happier if there’s a planet or colony that seems like it will provide a better opportunity. This should result in more overall migration!
      • In sum, planets that are not nice places to live will have less migration than before AS LONG AS there is opportunity and positive factors (retail, trade, jobs, etc).
    • Changed: Color-indicative UI
      • Now each Command Mode will have its own dominant color for system and planet screens, Projects, etc. This should make it easier to determine immediately what Mode you are in, as well as provide some color feedback. The colors are:
        • Military: Red
        • Economic: Green
        • Political: Yellow
        • Intel: Purple
        • Demographic: Blue
        • Overview: White
      • This system will continue to evolve as the game is developed!
    • Added: Change Assignment Action
      • A requested feature, now you can swap Characters who serve either in the Council as Primes or Characters who are Viceroys/Governors in your Holdings, as opposed to designating them for assignment and then reselecting them. This will simply swap the Characters’ Assignments. Note that if a Character is being demoted, i.e. from a province governor to a viceroy, they will not be happy, and vice versa. They cannot decline since they serve at your pleasure.
      • I have also expanded and improved the Character Selection UI in the Action screen. You will be able to see the tooltip, the House, and you can now sort by all Viceroys, Governors, Primes, and Courtiers. You can also sort by Skill. When you have an Action that will allow a swap, a ‘SWAP CHARACTER’ button will appear, and you will be able to access the Character Rank filter. Otherwise, you will only be able to select from ‘free’ characters (courtiers) as usual.
      • Note that you can NOT swap out Characters who are serving other Houses this way. In other words, you can not replace a Viceroy who is running a House Holding that is not yours and is not part of your House since you do not have authority to do so. You can only ask them to step down or exile them (or kill them!) to get rid of them.
    • UPDATED: Major optimization changes
      • Continuing to optimize the turn generation and graphics – most people should now get 60+ FPS on all screens. Still working on overview screen on planet view, but overall significant improvement
      • Turns should only take about 15-20 seconds to generate now, unless you are playing very large empires

 

MINOR ADDITIONS/CHANGES/BALANCE

  • Added more Requests/Demands
  • Added 3 more secondary strategies for House AI
  • Changed the Character Screen to make accommodations for the Intel system; also changed the Action Panel to only show categories that were relevant to the Character. For example, if a Character is a Courtier, they will not have any Assignment Actions since they do not have an Assignment, so there will not be an Assignment tab!
  • Added more tooltips
  • Continue to balance the economy – Planets should generally produce more Build Points. Also scaled down the amount of BP required for some installation’s maintenance.
  • Balanced map sizes slightly – now ‘small’ is actually larger with more constellations. This should allow all Houses to find at least one Holding without having to resort to taking a ‘bad’ one.
  • Rewrote the House Holding algorithm to deliberately create unbalanced House Holdings. Now, you will see one or two ‘much more powerful’ Houses as opposed to all of them having roughly the same number of Holdings.
  • Added more Events

 

 

BUG FIXES

  • Fixed major crash bug relating to the House AI not being able to execute a Secondary Action
  • Fixed major bug with the economy – the percentages should now be correct.
  • Fixed major hang bug with starting a game – the game would not generate enough Characters to populate all roles in the Empire
  • Fixed bug with Houses not going down to the lower relationship level once the Emperor Reputation hit -500. Now it will drop, and reset back to 0.
  • Fixed bug with Infrastructure costing way, way too much to build
  • Fixed bug with how new Outposts and Colonies are created – they should now have the appropriate amount of infrastructure
  • Planets should not now build in excess of their total facility limit; if they hit the max they will change their focus to Infrastructure at 100%
  • Fixed several bugs with how Claims are calculated
  • I think I’ve fixed an issue where you could not start a new game after going to the main screen after abandoning a current game. Still a WIP.
  • Other minor bug fixes

 

 

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Under the hood on trade, part 2!

Hello everyone!

For this second installment of trade, we’re going to finish explaining how trade works and go into some detail of how you can use trade to your advantage!

When we left, all of the trades in the Empire had been reviewed for the ability to fufill; i.e. does a planet have the resources to fill the order, and do they want to? In other words, just because a planet has 50 Rare materials, that doesn’t mean that they want to export them all (every planet has upkeep) So, with that in mind, a viceroy must determine what’s best for their planet. It might be that they are aggressively trying to raise cash so that they are looking to sell more inventory and bring their planet to profitability (having a money-losing planet unnerves Pops, who don’t want to live on a planet that can’t sustain a profitable economy) or they’re just greedy bastards who want to take more of the personal cut (Viceroys typically get 5% of all income on a planet, AS LONG AS IT IS PROFITABLE, which increases their Power and ability to do things like assist with Projects).

So let’s look at the next step, determining profitability.

Now determining trade profitability for the Celestial Empire.

Viceroy Gluttony: -4 Trade Aptitude: 9 Humanity: 52
Trade hub Juthrbog’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $1.6 BCs per trade.

So Juthrbog’s viceroy is now examining trades that they have put under review by profitability. They make a determination of how profitable a trip needs to be in order to accept it. Remember, Viceroys have a limited number of fleets that they can deploy at any one time, and they are real objects in the world – if a fleet takes a very long time to get from planet A to planet B, those ships will not be available for quite a while, so the viceroy has to make a cost/time/benefit analysis to having those ships unavailable for a while. In future builds, Viceroys will also make decisions based on relationships with the requesting Viceroys, meaning they will ‘cut a break’ with Viceroys that they have an allied or friendly relationship with.


In this case, they have a Gluttony state of -4, which is about normal (0 is considered ‘average’, and the scale is -100 to 100), so they’re not particularly greedy. They have almost no trade aptitude, (0 to 200) which means they will usually not select the ‘best’ deal and be weighted for other things, like helping their friends and ensuring that food and energy go to planets that need it, emphasized by their Humanity of 52 (pretty high). So they’ll basically take deals that help other planets more, all things being equal, and not look to make much profit. In this case, however, Juthrbog is not reviewing any trades this month, so the program moves to the next hub.

Viceroy Gluttony: -45 Trade Aptitude: 102 Humanity: 43
Trade hub Meide’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $2.7 BCs per trade.
Viceroy is considering trade with Juthrbog for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 BCs, with total profit of 0.0.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.

So Meide’s Viceroy has a very low Gluttony, but a very high Trade Aptitude, meaning that they will tend to take smart, profitable trades even though they have a pretty high Humanity. So, their floor for a trade is $2.7 BC’s (billion credits) per trade, as opposed to Juthrbog’s at $1.6 BCs. Juthrbog requested 2 units of Energy for $0.7 BC’s total (for an average of $0.35 BC/unit, less than what Luminescence was offering, remember?) With the distance this trade will have to travel, and the low amount requested, this trade would actually LOSE money, so not surprisingly, it is kicked to the curb swiftly by the incredulous Meide viceroy.

Viceroy Gluttony: -86 Trade Aptitude: 99 Humanity: 33
Trade hub Voluspa’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $0.2 MCs per trade.
Viceroy is considering trade with Illitch for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $2.2. Total expected profit: $0.6.
Viceroy is considering trade with Luminescence for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 2.7.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $9.8. Total expected profit: $2.7.
…. There are excess potential trades for number of available fleets! As a result, the trade from Voluspa to Illitch is denied due to other trades being more profitable!

OK, now Volupsa is up. They’re looking at several trades here, including with Illitch and Luminescence. Now, remember that Volupsa only has 1 available fleet? (they only have 18 Merchants, and it takes 10 per active trade fleet) So they need to make it count!


With a super low Gluttony, this Viceroy is not really interested in profit for himself, so it comes down to which trade is smarter for the planet? Illitch is requesting a trade for 2 units of Basic for $0.58 BCs per unit. Pretty good offer, but the volume is low.


Luminescence, however, is asking for 10 units of Basic for $.6 BCs per unit. Better offer, and more volume. That’s why the total expected profit is much higher ($2.7 BCs vs. $0.6 BCs) Even with requiring more fuel and ships to sent 10 units, it’s still an equal profit per unit for both trades, so volume wins out. Even though both trades were accepted, since Volupsa can only create one trade fleet, the trade from Illitch is denied in favor of Luminescence! Yay!!!

And the trade (white ship) is now on the way to Luminescence! Yay!! It should arrive in 4 months, as seen by the text above the ship.

So all’s well that ends well. Volupsa made a profitable trade, Luminescence is getting basic materials that they need, and they didn’t pay an exorbitant price. As more House diplomatic dynamics are fleshed out, there will be more emphasis placed on relations between Houses and the Empire, and between Houses with each other.


So that’s great and all, you ask, but how can I use this to my advantage? Ah, young Emperor, you have asked a great questions. Let me explain.


The most important concepts to understand is that YOU DO NOT CONTROL TRADE. You can direct its flow, and you will soon be given the power to embargo planets, systems, or even whole provinces from trade, but until that time your power lies in creating the infrastructure required to trade. If a system does not have a trade hub that is not connected to a larger province hub, they can only trade with planets in their system with a trade hub. A connected and large, province-spanning Trade Group, however, connects ALL systems within its borders as long as the system has a hub. So in the example above, the Ipabog system is cut off from the Podaga trade group because they don’t have a system hub. However, when/if they build one, their proximity to the hub influence of both Percunatel and Podaga (the big purple circles) will ensure that they will be added to the Podaga trade group once they have a system hub built. That will have several effects:


* The Pops in Ipabog will be happier since they will have access to more goods (their Retail Sector will improve, which increases Happiness and generates income)

* 2 more planets will be added to the trade group, meaning that there are more possibilities for trade proposals, and thus more competition for better trades

* For you, this means that materials generated in the Ipabog system will now have a way to get to the Podoga Province hub, which means more supply fleets will be generated, meaning more materials for the Empire!

So in order to facilitate trade, you need several things to happen:
* You need merchants, who are drawn to larger trade infrastructure planets (the bigger hub and starbase, the better!) With more merchants, you can…
* …Have more trade fleets, and a larger retail sector, which can generate more income, which allows….
* …Your planets’ Average Development Level (ADL) to increase (representing more affluence and development), which allows…
* …More Pops to move to your planet, since they see wealth and opportunity, which allows…
* …More Factories and Mines to be built, which create…
* …More excess Trade Goods (materials) that can be sold at a profit by…
* …Merchants, who are drawn to larger trade infrastructure….

And that’s the circle of trade, when it’s executed right. Of course, you need competent Pops and Viceroys to make this work, which we’ll explore in this evening’s blog detailing Viceroys.


Until then, have a great day!

-Steve

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As .7 approaches, here’s an under-the hood guide on how trade happens!

Hey everyone! Looks like we’re going to launch .7 any day now, but I wanted to showcase a few either new or vastly improved/updated elements of the game. The first one is trade. It’s been upgraded and tweaked, and now it’s a powerful part of the game but even though the underlying process is pretty complex, it’s easy for the player to use and direct trade how they want! Let’s dive in:

First, a primer of how trade (now) works in AotSS. It’s really pretty fundamental. Your noble merchants on each planet have 2 uses: to build and expand the retail sector on a planet, and to coordinate and organize the gigantic trade fleets that move thousands of tons of materials throughout the Empire. Without merchants, a planet can not create trade fleets, meaning they can not buy materials (this is not a good situation to be in). In addition, a planet can have one of 4 trade states: no trade, import only, system hub, or province hub. As long as a planet has a starbase, they can receive goods, but not create Trades. If they don’t have a Starbase, they’re out of luck. If they have a trade port, they can send materials (called supply trades) as well to their local system or province Hub, but not create economic trades. An outpost would have a trade port so they can forward their materials to a home Hub. Next comes system hubs. System hubs are meant to collect all trade in their system. If their Influence is large enough, they will be able to be part of a Trade Group, which is anchored by a Province Hub. Only Province Hubs have the infrastructure needed to deploy interstellar fleets and send supply trades to the Empire homeworld. Hubs can create as many fleets per month as their level of Starbase, so a level III base would be able to create 3 different economic trades (supply Trades have no limit) and it takes 10 Merchants to create a Trade Fleet (not applicable to supply trades). These Merchants are tied up while administrating these fleets, and are not available for the retail sector during their use. That’s the trade system at its most basic level.

So, let’s look at our neighborhood that we’re going to focus on today.

We’re going to focus on the planet Luminescence of the Percunatel system today.

So the first thing that we’re going to look at is the situation on the planet. What does the viceroy think is most important to the planet at this time? Every material is given an Importance by the viceroy that runs from 0-100, where 0 means there is very little need for that material at this time (and in the near future) while 100 means that the viceroy is desperate for that material, for whatever reason.

So let’s look at L’s situation at the start of the game:

Luminescence’s situation. You can see that she has a trade hub (system) and has a desperate need for basic materials (that’s the 100 under Import Needs in the system info block)

So what’s the deal? Why does the viceroy need basic materials so badly? Let’s dig deeper into the planetary situation…

Oh boy. They’re cranking through basic materials very quickly, with all those factories it’s no wonder! Looks like the planet will be out of basic materials in about 15 months. And without basic materials, things start to fall apart and infrastructure starts to decay. This leads to bad things like riots and people leaving the planet. Let’s see what we can do to help! Maybe ask the viceroy to build some mines?
Woof. With an overall basic material mining rating of 44, that’s going to be a tough proposition. We could ask the viceroy to lower the factory overdrive to use less materials, but it’s far from certain that they would go along, especially since this is a pretty ambitious Viceroy. Guess we should focus on making sure that the planet can get them through trade, huh? Let’s dig in and see how that works.

The first thing that the trade manager does is go through each planet and determine what the needs are, how badly the planet needs them, and what the viceroy is willing to do/pay to get certain materials.

RESOURCE PRICES FOR CELESTIAL EMPIRE IN GALACTIC YEAR 3,050.1
FOOD ENERGY BASIC HEAVY RARE
0.1 0.6 0.3 0.4 0.7

Ok. So prices globally for Basic Materials throughout the Empire average $.3 BC (billion credits) per unit. (Remember that a unit is about 100 tons; we’re talking planet-scale quantities.) Let’s see the analysis for Luminescence by the viceroy that is conducted at the start of every turn: (By the way – this is not in-game text – this is generated by an error logger that is accessible for anyone playing the game!)

TRADE ANALYSIS FOR PLANET LUMINESCENCE OF THE CIVILIZATION CELESTIAL EMPIRE
VICEROY HUMANITY: 7 INTELLIGENCE: 76 CAUTION: 77
Viceroy Carlitian Perry on planet Luminescence is calculating Importances….
Food Importance: 0.0
Energy Importance: 0.0
Basic Importance: 100.0
Heavy Importance: 0.0
Rare Importance: 0.0

So this tells us that the viceroy with a low Humanity probably won’t care that much about things like food or energy and will more likely focus on things that build empire like basic/heavy/rare materials. Food doesn’t build warships, after all. The viceroy has a fairly high Intelligence and a high Caution, which is important.


Total Import Budget for this month is calculated at $8.3 based on a GPP of $415.2 less trade expenses this year of $0.0 and a percentage dedicated to trade of 21 %.
The yearly import budget is $127.3.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards food imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards energy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $5.4 MCs towards basic imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards heavy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards rare imports this month.
After allocations, there is $2.9 remaining this month to use for adjusting import bids, or if not used, to return to the yearly import budget.

Next, the viceroy determines the monthly import budget. While they are allowed to deficit spend, more intelligent viceroys will hesitate to do that unless very necessary. So in this case, Viceroy Perry has set aside $8.3 BC for trade purposes. He then looks at the relative importance of each good and allocates a tentative budget to each one.


With a monthly shortfall of -23.3, 0.0 food units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -2.3, 0.0 energy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 12.6, 137.3 basic units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -3.0, 0.0 heavy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 1.9, 20.7 rare units are requested from the viceroy this month.
New Trade Request generated! Taking export budget into account, Luminescence requests 9.75 units of Basic at a max price per unit of 0.6.
No trade generated for rare – adjusted unit need was zero.
No trade generated for heavy – adjusted unit need was zero.
TRADE ANALYSIS COMPLETED FOR Luminescence…

OK. Now the various state and local governments have weighed in on what they feel they need this month based on projected output and usage. This is presented to the viceroy as a ‘shopping list’ of sorts that the viceroy can use or ignore based on what they see fit. In this case. the government feels that rare materials would be nice to have as well, but Viceroy Perry disagrees. He will take their need into consideration, but he is not willing to obliterate his export budget and put out a request for 137 units of basic (or 21 units of rare, which is much more expensive!) so after weighing the factors (which also includes what his House directive is – if their directive is to stockpile resources, then he might be much more willing to overspend) Perry decides to put a trade request out for almost 10 units of Basic, and he is willing to pay up to $0.6 per unit (remember basic is going for about $0.3 per unit, so he’s pretty desperate) This trade request will go out to the entire trade group that Luminescence belongs to (the Podaga trade group) as well as New Terra (with a civ hub they can reach all Provinces)

Now that the trade request is out on the ‘open market’, what happens now?

Looking within PODAGA TRADE GROUP….
Connected to civilization trade hub, so checking that trade hub as well…

So each trade hub is looked at one at a time, and if the trade hub is connected to the civilization hub (New Terra) than a check is made there as well. Basically, think of it as a market across the Empire where different worlds are competing for a limited set of trade resources, and they’re posting trade proposals across their own Trade Hub as well as the Empire’s capital. Remember that distance adds costs to trade fleets, so if you live out in the hinterlands you’d better be prepared to pay a lot to get traders to go that far. This is the Trade Hub where L resides, so we’ll look at that process now.

Checking civtradehub: New Terra.

Checking on valid trades for planet Voluspa….
There are no active trade proposals on Voluspa.

Checking on valid trades for planet Illitch….
Trade for basic materials denied due to zero basic surplus.This may be due to lack of production or an excess of caution on the viceroy’s part.

So each trade hub (province, system, New Terra) goes through all the trade requests that they can reach (must be in their Trade Hub or a province hub connected to the capital) They loot at trades on 2 levels: First, can they actually fufill what the request is asking for? To determine that, each Viceroy when looking over a proposal considers their own planet’s needs – are they looking to raise money, hoard materials, some of both? Is the Viceroy a Trader? Their culture also comes into play as to how aggressively they will seek out trades and try to fill them. In Illitch’s case, New Terra (the hub currently being checked) is not willing to part with ANY basic materials, probably because they have a high Caution and/or their House (well, your House, but if this were an AI House it would try to act to the House wishes as long as they don’t have a grudge or a stupid low Honor). So this Viceroy will not trade ANY basic materials to ANYONE this month. This is updated every month, but for now the port is closed with regards to basic.

Checking on valid trades for planet Luminescence….
Trade for basic materials denied due to zero basic surplus.This may be due to lack of production or an excess of caution on the viceroy’s part.

Checking provincetradehub: Voluspa.

Now the Province Hub, Voluspa, is checking out the trade requests, and making their decisions.

Checking on valid trades for planet Illitch….
Basic material request found for Illitch! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 2.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on Voluspa: 51(includes 3 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 2 Basic units of basic for 1.2 MCs requested from Voluspa to Illitch.

Checking on valid trades for planet Luminescence….
Basic material request found for Luminescence! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 9.8 units. Basic materials allocated for export on Voluspa: 51(includes 3 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 10 Basic units of basic for 5.4 MCs requested from Voluspa to Luminescence.

Bingo! Voluspa’s viceroy is not so tight-fisted as the NT viceroy when it comes to their materials, and they have released 51 units of basic for (potential) sale. As you can see, that’s only 3% of their total stockpile, so it’s not like they’re giving away the farm, so this is probably a pretty Cautious Viceroy. So Voluspa has agreed to review the trade. It now goes into ‘review’ status. Basically, review status is where once all of the trade proposals across the Empire have been looked at and determined what planets could handle them, they ‘compete’ to take the best deal (i.e. the most profitable). Coming soon: Part 2, where we determine what trades make the cut, how fleets form, and how you (the player) can manipulate the trade system to your advantage!)

Until later – 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

Posted on 8 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So without further ado, the release roadmap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Steve

Posted on 8 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear.

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to work on 4.7.0a!

-Steve

 

 

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Just a quick update – Life is personal, and programming is hard!

Hey all!

This is Steve, lead developer of Alliance of the Sacred Suns. This is a quick blog to talk a little bit about the relative lack of updates from me! Basically, it’s hard having a baby, especially when you’re still working full-time as well as trying to complete an alpha for a game.

Although Ethan has been a great baby, he’s still a baby, with baby needs and baby volume, and with my 50 hour a week job, it’s been difficult for me to find time to develop. Oliver and Ogi have continued to work on the writing and the graphics, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found a new balance, my wife has been supportive with my efforts to rebalance everything, and have been able to successfully work on the game again.

We’re back on track and be ready to hear a lot about what we’re doing in the near future. I just wanted to muse a bit on how much your life changes when you have a kid for the first time and how much harder it is to get up in the morning! So this is a combination thanks to the team for carrying on and an apology that I haven’t posted more stuff in the last month or so. I promise to make up for lost time :-p

We’re going all-out on the .5 build for this month and it should be ready by the end of November. We’re starting to look at a target date for an alpha release that you can purchase. We’re not yet ready to set a date but we’re getting closer to that decision. We’re also in the process of redesigning our web site so we’ll have a one stop shop for all things AotSS in the near future. As always, you can catch up with the updates on the forum or this blog. Thanks for everyone’s patience – as some of you may know, it’s hard being indie!

-Ave imperator!

-Steve

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.4 (Constantine) Releasing to Testers This Week!

Hey everyone!

First of all, it’s very exciting to see so many new people on the blog! Thanks to RPS for their very positive article!

We wanted to announce that we are releasing .4 this week (codename: Constantine) and we are moving right into .5 (codename: Theodosius). This means that most of the UI is now complete, the Projects and Action systems are in, the new game creation system is in, and the 3D graphics have been updated with most of the planets being replaced and all of the stars. We are very excited about working on .5, which will include the following:

  • Council System
  • Budget System
  • Emperor Screen/Diary
  • Unrest/Tension system
  • Constellations
  • Start of AI System Implemented
  • More Projects/Actions
  • Sound/Music

We are working hard on getting the AI implemented and the gameplay balanced as our testers will be working on this. Look for more screenshots and an updated video shortly on our YouTube channel!

Also, with the release of .4, we will be increasing the tempo of blog and forum updates, as well as working on our web site design. We will move to www.allianceofthesacredsuns.com shortly once our new web site is live. This blog will be moved there as part of that redesign.

Most exciting, we are planning to release our Phase One of our early access build before the end of the year! We will add more information about pricing and dates shortly.

Stay tuned for more info!

-Steve

 

 

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The Aitvaras AI System: A Day in the Life of a Character in ‘Alliance of the Sacred Suns’

Hi all, Oliver here! Today I’m going to be talking in a little more detail about how our AI system will work.

Because Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a turn-based game, the AI isn’t constantly calculating what to do. Instead, each character, including the player, takes a turn, and over the course of that turn, the (other) AIs mostly just react to the active AI’s actions. (We may do some clever things with AI decision-making in the background of other characters’ turns, in order to shorten the turn calculation time, but the basic principle is IGOUGO.) The active character, in contrast, will be running quite a sophisticated algorithm to decide what exactly they’re going to do with their time.

First of all, they have to take stock of their situation. At the start of each character’s turn, they check their Attention Bidding System. This is a function that chooses between different possible goals for the character to work towards, based on weights assigned to those goals. For some goals, such as getting rich, these weights are pretty constant, only varying with the character’s fundamental personality and Ultimate Goal (their overall desire in life). For others, the weight will depend on their circumstances – ‘Survival’, for example, takes a weight determined by the highest Threat Level of any character to the active character. (Threat Level is a figure set by a combination of a character’s Power with modifiers for other factors, such as threats they’ve made and Secrets the active character knows about them.) The goal they’re currently working towards also has a bonus to its weight, to make sure characters stay plausibly focussed.

Once the Attention Bidding System’s check has been made, the character then starts moving on the Strategy Tree. This is a branching tree of hand-written decision nodes, designed to try and emulate real human reasoning by proceeding from ultimate motives, through general strategies, to specific actions. But rather than starting from the top of the tree each time, unless they’ve changed their end goal, the character will pick up wherever they left off at the end of their last turn. (Again, this is to make sure they maintain coherent courses of action over time.) The character will then proceed through the tree according to the rules on each node they come to, until they come to a node telling them to perform an action of some kind. When they come to a node of this sort, they will spend an Action Point, perform the action, and then check their Attention Bidding System again, to make sure circumstances haven’t changed what they ought to be doing – for example, if they’ve Challenged a character more powerful than they are, they may suddenly need to move to the Survival branch of the tree! Then, if they have Action Points left, they will start moving through the tree again, repeating the process until they run out of APs.

So that’s the overview of the system. Let’s have a look at an example, to see how this’ll work in practice.

Mancy Ononoke is the young viceroy of the planet Lucidia. Her Ultimate Goal in life is Wealth, which means that’s one of the goals she has under consideration, and since she’s a very Driven young woman, its weighting is quite high, outbidding the moderate threat from the popular Gaius Locke, also resident on Lucidia, for her attention. Now since she was busy on a pilgrimage until last turn, she starts from the top of the Wealth branch of the strategy tree. First, she decides what broad strategy she will pursue to make her money: since she’s a Viceroy, she makes the easy choice to Develop her Territory (a node directly under ‘Ultimate Goal: Wealth’). Now, how to do that? ‘Develop Territory’ has three child nodes, but two of them are available only to senior clergy and province governors, respectively. So she opts for the third, ‘Improve Economic Sector’.

‘Improve Economic Sector’ is a node that can be accessed from a number of different places, so it has options for which planet and sector of the economy to improve. Choosing which planet to improve is easy when there’s only one option, but selecting which sector to improve is more complex. Mancy considers unemployment, production capacity, and the skill of her workers in order to pick the Energy sector. She then, following the node’s script, determines that the best way to improve that sector is by building more power plants. Therefore, she moves down to Adjust Build Plan, and spends an Action Point to alter her planet’s build plan to favour building them. The instructions then tell her to wait to see how effective it is, so she discards the rest of her Action Points, and the turn ends.

Mancy doesn’t have to just sit around waiting, of course. Many goals can be pursued as ‘break activities’, meaning they can interrupt other activities without disrupting them completely – once the break activity is finished, the character goes right back to what they were doing. ‘Survival’ – in this case, tackling the threat of Mr. Locke – is such an activity, and, since she’s waiting, she gives break activities a higher weighting in the bidding for her attention. So, next turn, she might decide to deal with Locke once and for all! But she might also choose to start building a family, spend time with her friends, do something for the Church, or any one of a number of different things. There are over 500 nodes on the strategy tree, with twelve different goals bidding for characters’ attention, and many different ways to achieve those goals, creating a dynamic, storytelling system in which characters act plausibly in pursuit of believable motivations.

Not only that, but since the system is completely modular, modders will be able to add new nodes and modify existing ones. Different branches can cross-reference one another (with a customisable limit on absolute tree depth, to prevent infinite loops) meaning that some nodes added to one branch can be used intelligently by characters pursuing other goals. (Assuming, that is, the nodes are well-written!)

Now some of you will be reading this and thinking, ‘That’s all well and good, but how many hours am I going to have to sit and wait for each turn to resolve?’ We’re very aware of the potential performance issues involved in such a procedure, so we also plan to iteratively develop an ‘AI director’ system to switch characters between this process and a much simpler, more efficient one, in order to provide the player with a better experience. This other system will be much lower-fidelity and have many fewer options, making the decision process much faster, but crucially, you won’t know which character is running what at any given time – a character who doesn’t seem to be doing much proactively might not be, but on the other hand, they might be busy plotting behind your back…

It’s a very exciting time for me right now, because having worked on the detailed design of this system for almost a year, we’re on the point of beginning to implement it! Keep your eye on the blog – we’re going to have a lot to show off in the coming weeks and months.

Ave Imperator!

Oliver