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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Steve

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

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

 

 

Hey everyone!

With the holidays in full swing, and with a new baby routine set up, life is getting less hectic and that means more work is being done on the game! We just finished adding constellations to the game system, and we are finishing up the culture/idea system. Our plan is to have the base UI completed very soon, including the province view/mode, and then we’ll start adding the AI for the characters.

We just sent version .4.3.0 out to the testers yesterday, and we’ve got plans to send about one new build a week. We also plan to create a new video in the next few days showing our progress. I have been concentrating on rewriting some base features so that the framerate and response time of the UI is increased greatly. We were having an issue with lag, so I rewrote the galaxy UI and main camera script to be much more efficient (it was one of the first things I wrote when I was still learning Unity, and it was one of those things where it could be much more efficient but I didn’t know it at the time). The UI and camera are much more responsive now. I also changed out the camera FOV and zoom system to work more like Stellaris as opposed to changing the FOV to zoom into the galaxy view. This makes the distortion at very high zoom-out levels almost nonexistent!

We’re also starting to implement the sound effects. It’s amazing how much a little sound can affect the UI experience. Makes it much more tactile. Unity makes it super easy to add sound effects to UI, as well as music. We’re still working on the music, but we have a few options already for a professional-sounding experience, especially for an indie game!

Oliver is continuing to write more of the game story and interludes, and Ogi just got back from holiday, so we’ll be seeing more art soon!

The next few builds will start to contain some of the command modes fleshed out more from a UI perspective, and we will start to add more Actions for characters, continue to add more art and remove placeholders, and start to generate the AI actions. We’ll start by testing 2 distinct ‘ultimate strategies’ that a character can be pursuing long-range (eventually, this will be around a dozen) and starting work on the ‘AI map’ to test it in the game. This is a very exciting time for the game and I’m excited to see what these characters will start to do!

Also on the radar: completion of the conversion of all stellar art assets to 3d, and adding volumetric nebulas/fog. That’s more of an ongoing task, however.

From a business perspective, we have finally finished our logo, and have begun design work on our new web sites. No ETA for those yet, hopefully before the end of the year. Our existing websites/forum are still and will continue to be up, however. We did have a spam attack on our forums (guess we’re getting bigger!) so for now if you want to register on the forums we will be handling those by hand.

We have started a news letter that contains some of this information, but it will add more in-depth info (an ‘insider’ piece, if you will) and will be sent on demand through signing up on our FB page or our web site.

That’s about all for now. Watch this space for more media soon!

Thanks!

-Steve

 

 

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 http://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