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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Steve

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Help Me, Rhonda: The In-Game Help Dilemma

Hey everyone!

Steve here, to talk about what will be by far the primary feature in this weeks’ update: a complete revamp of the help system, starting with this update. I wanted to talk a little bit about what it will look like, what’s coming, and why it took so long to add!

First, a look into help in general in games, and where I stand on it. As a developer, I think I suffer from ‘game immersion’ where you play a game literally for years – you know every nook, cranny, and line of code. You know exactly how to do everything in the game, what everything does, and you can visualize what’s happening ‘under the hood’ – so you know why something did or didn’t happen, even if there’s no feedback with that info.

Here’s the obvious issue; your players don’t have that same feedback and insight. So what you know to be gameplay working correctly might come across to a player as a broken feature, a bug, or something that just doesn’t do anything. If that happens enough, they will most likely quit out of frustration, and will have a negative impression of your game! Fairly enough. This issue multiplies when you’re trying to do something ‘different’ whose game mechanics are not common.

As an example: If I’m playing Dominus Galaxia, a great MOO1 update currently in development, as a 4X gamer I already know many of the concepts I’m working with. Research, colonization, economy, build queues, combat, diplomacy, etc. Even though I haven’t read a manual of the game, I can still get around and use and play it with very little help because I have a grounding in the basic concepts. Maybe I need help with specific UI conventions, or some new twists on features, but generally I can pick up the game and play with little help.

A game like AotSS, on the other hand, has several unique concepts that are not common to other 4X/strategy games (Projects, Actions, trade system, production system, etc). While the ‘back of the box’ feature list would lead one to believe that these games are similar (Colonize! Expand! Explore! Exploit!), in truth the systems are different enough that it’s much harder, if not impossible, to ‘pick up and play’ AotSS as it currently stands.

When developing a game, it’s a lot more fun to add features and AI than it is to document it, and I think almost any game developer would agree with that. So help and documentation often get kicked to the back burner, but with the growth and sales of AotSS, I have enough feedback to see that the game can’t grow and gain an audience without stopping to plan and implement a real, thorough, in-game help system. So at last, players can wrap their arms around this huge game.

So what will the help system look like? It will be made up of 6 key components, 2 of which will be implemented this week and 1 which is already in:

  1. Tooltips for every single icon and value, explaining in greater detail what the value is AND how it can be affected (key change) – In for .7.1
  2. A larger help screen for each panel that explains what you do in this panel and how to do it – In for .7.1
  3. A grand vizier window that reviews current goals, opportunities, gives advice, and game progress – In as of .7.0.3
  4. A grand vizier chat for each screen that gives advice on what to do with this panel and some strategies – TBA
  5. An in-game Alliancopedia (working title) that goes into detail into concepts, history, Houses, etc). – TBA
  6. In-game links to the written documentation and tutorial videos – TBA

Hopefully, this will be enough to get players up and running. With AotSS poised for growth and on the verge of being known to a wider audience, the last thing I want is some influencer trying to play the game and not having a clue about what to do. Plus, the game has evolved enough that customers need and deserve a comprehensive help system.

So here it is. I would love your feedback as it evolves!

Steve

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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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.7 inbound! And a new Kickstarter coming soon!

Hello, everyone! Long time no see! Even though I’ve been quiet, I’ve been working a lot on the game and after almost 5 pages of addons, changes, tweaks, fixes, and improvements, I’m just about ready to launch .7!

With that, after save and load functionality is added (the very next major feature to be added – well, technically save is already there, but it’s internal) I feel the time is right to launch a Kickstarter. With all the changes and fixes in .7, I am happy enough with the product that I feel that it is right to present as a Kickstarter.

A Kickstarter will allow me to work on the game more, add more art and special effects, allow the game to be promoted more (which will bring in more money that will allow more improvements – you see the cycle!) Let me be clear: I have 2 loans out on the initial development of the game – I have not made a penny on the game that I can ‘pay’ myself; all proceeds have basically gone to pay back loans on the game. So this is more of a passion project than something that’s going to buy my second home. But I do want to finish it and I feel the end is within reach with a large push in 2019. So look for more updates soon on when that will launch and how you can help!

Thank you for your patience!

Steve

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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

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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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Baby, I’ve been busy… where have you been, Steve!

Hey everyone!

If it seems like I’ve been away for a while, it’s because I have. My wife and I welcomed our first child to the family, Ethan Hawkins, last Tuesday 9/20, but not without complications – basically he had to spend almost a week in the NICU due to various complications from being born 3 weeks early. The great news is that the little guy is doing great and will be coming home today, which means that that’s a load off my mind!

So with that behind us, as much as I can, AotSS will be back in production. I have some time off from my main job and while obviously a lot of that time will be used to bond with mom and son, I will be working hard on .5 as we ready for a pre-alpha release later this year!

Thanks for everyone’s understanding and support!

-Steve

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.4 Update, New Screenshots, and a New Artist!

Hello everyone! It feels like it’s been a while since we last spoke, but we’ve been busy revamping the UI system from the ground up, as well as tightening the gameplay and design. We’re almost ready to send .4 out, and we hope to feature it on a podcast soon (Details forthcoming) but for now, we wanted to show some more screenshots, talk about how the UI is evolving, and introduce our newest artist, Ogi Schneider! Ogi has helped us with our UI/UX setup, and helped us corral this huge game into a friendly and accessible interface, the first results which we will be showing below!

Ogi’s bio:

My name is Ogi Schneider, I was born in Switzerland and live currently in London. After my interactive entertainment Diploma I went to Germany to a Stuttgart based 3D visualization company for an internship in 3D modeling/animation/rendering which led to a full-time position, helping with visualization- and game-/interactive-projects. We released two game titles, Tower Tapper (mobile only) and Steamscope (mac/mobile).

After 3 years in Germany I went back to Switzerland, doing freelance jobs regarding 3D and texturing for Apps and Games. Next to freelancing I was also involved in two indie game projects, Sky Mercenaries (Steam) and Steel Rain (Steam). In 2015 I got the chance to start a paid internship in London as Graphic Designer, which led to a fulltime job doing mostly UI/UX-Design and some print- and web-design.

In May 2016 I started freelancing again and found this great job opportunity to work on the Imperia UI- and UX-Design, which is what I am currently working on.

We are excited to showcase some of the new UI design in the .4 build and talk about some of the reasons for the sea change in design. Please note that while these are all in-game screenshots, there are a few missing icons here and there, and things will most likely change/tweak over the course of development. Let’s show some screenshots!

These are the first pass of the new 3D setup screens. We will add a third screen for the emperor setup (name, House name, colors, crests, portrait) in an upcoming build soon. The panels are 3D and move in real-space. It’s a cool effect!

Galaxy Screen 7.6.16

Here is the main screen, where you see all the new elements. The command bar is on the lower-left where you can change your command mode (economic, political, demographic, military) and an overview mode that would be the closest to a ‘traditional’ mode. On the right is your Project Bar, which will show all of your active Projects in the Empire and the available Projects for that level (province, system, planet mode). On the upper-right is your Empire stockpiles for energy and materials, used when you start a Project and for trade. The top center is your Emperor Status bar, which shows your remaining Action Points, your location, your Power rating, and your popular support. Finally, the upper-left shows the sub window buttons (Finance, Intel, Science, Emperor Diary, Overview/Stats) and your option menu.

System Screen 7.6.16

Zooming in, you see the new stars and some of the new planets. This shows the new Economic Planet bar that shows the basic economic information. Other modes will have the relevant information about each planet for that mode. You are able to access the viceroys from each planet from these bars as well.

Planet Base Screen 7.6.16

Here is the base Planet Screen – this is what you will see in each mode regardless of type. Your Chain of Command is always in the upper-left (you will see shortened versions of the COC on the system and province screens). This shows the tax revenue from the planet and who is getting how much. In the center is the viceroy window with a new chat log showing your conversation, and their basic info. The lower-center is the planet summary bar showing the high-level information about the planet. Keep in mind that we’re still tweaking what each panel shows and how much, but the look and feel is pretty much set.

Expanded Economic Mode 7.6.16

When you are in a submode, you will have a window bar on the left that shows individual panels that can be opened and closed independently. These windows stay with the mode, meaning that you can have 2 windows open in eco mode, 3 windows open in demographic mode, etc. and they will stay open with the mode when you switch modes, even between planets. In this way, players can create a workspace that works best for them – different combinations of panels can be used for different views when they work within that mode! This shot shows all of the Economic windows open, but they can be closed independently  as needed.

Updated Project Screen 1

Here is the in-game Project Screen. You first select a Project from the bar on the right, which opens up the window seen here. You then select an Administrator by dragging and dropping their charcter card into the box, which will unlock a number of contributor slots equal to the skill of the administrator. You then drag and drop contributors until you have enough financial contribution and ADM to finish the project in a realistic amount of time, You can find characters by scope (planet/system, etc), House, or filter (ADM > 0, wealth > 0) and sort within the pages to bring the highest values to the top.

Updated Project Screen 2

Here’s a Project that is ready to send, with an Admin and 2 contributors.

So we’re working now on the Character Screen. Not *quite* ready to show, but it will be ready to use and we’ll have a blog on that shortly. With the basic UI look and feel in place, we’ll be adding the rest of the modes shortly, along with the sub windows in the next .5 build!

-Steve

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Approaching .3…

Hi all, Oliver here. Just a brief post today, outlining where we are and what we’re doing! Sunday 1st is our scheduled production deadline for Imperia Alpha 0.3, and Steve and I are both hard at work nailing down what’s left of that milestone.

Steve has been working on the trade system – planets in each trade zone now bid for goods, and automatically create trade fleets to dispatch them, all of which you can see on the map. He’s going to be polishing that up and adding tooltips this week, along with implementing the characters’ secret attitudes towards one another and a bunch of other stuff under the hood. For testers, there’s a very detailed log showing what the AI is considering when making trades, and what personality traits they are using. We haven’t added House affiliation yet when making these decisions, but when the House system is fully installed that will be a factor as well. He will also be adding the Project Bar and begin adding the Project data so that testers can start using the Project system in .4.

On my end, I’ve been polishing up the core of the AI’s strategy tree – which determines what each character wants and how they try to get it – and building a simplified model of the Threat Assessment AI in Python, to test out our design for that as it stands. Using test articles like this is a really good way to refine the design without having to mess with the game itself, and since Steve is doing all the proper coding, it saves him a lot of time, too. Initially we were going to model it in Excel (!), but the extra functionality you get with Python means it’s much easier to do it this way.

Come next milestone, which all going well will come at the start of June, the Threat Assessment AI (in whatever form it takes after this round of prototyping) will be implemented, along with the core of the Strategy Tree and a fairly minimal set of Actions and Projects. Imperia will go from being a fancy-pants galaxy simulator to an actual game for the first time since it was all written in XNA, and I for one am stoked about it.

We’ve also been recruiting alpha testers and UI artists, which is rather exciting. Having set out most of the UI in fairly Spartan ink-and-paper sketches over the past few months, it’s quite something to see them rendered professionally. Hopefully we’ll have some shiny new art to show you in the next few weeks, too!

Until next time,

Oliver