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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow.

-Steve

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.6.3.0 Out Shortly!! Tons of new Features

Hey everyone!

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

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

 

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News Of The Week

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your interest!

-Steve

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Updated development video now out! Check it out here!

Hey everyone!

As promised, the new video is out, and while it’s a bit longer than usual (almost 50 minutes!) it’s chock full of content and showing some of the new graphics, UI, and systems we’ve been working on. We are targeting more frequent updates – every two weeks or so, just to keep ourselves honest if nothing else. There should also be 2 blog posts a week ideally, but at least one no matter what. We’re working on cleaning up the forums – we had an attack of spammers a month or so ago, and we’re just about done cleaning up all that nonsense. We hope to have a tentative early access release date pretty soon, where you’ll be able to buy in on the ground floor and be eligible for all future updates. We’re getting closer, as you can hopefully see from this video. I’m personally excited to be working on the game actively again and I think you’ll be impressed with the strides we’ll be taking over the next several weeks!

Anyway, the link is here:https://youtu.be/0u1D2FvLHig

Don’t forget that we have our own channel that you can subscribe to for updates in real-time. Hundreds have signed up, why don’t YOU?? 🙂

Until soon,

Steve

 
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Version .400 is LIVE!!!

Hey all,

Sorry it’s been a little longer than I wanted, but I hope you agree that version .4 is worth the wait. There are a ton of new features, and the best part is that there is an updated wiki to go with it – it should help the learning curve somewhat!

Here is the link to the wiki: http://imperia5x.wikidot.com/start

Here is the updated changelog:

Imperia V.400a Change Log/Readme

9.10.14

Notes

* Please uninstall any previous version of Imperia before installing a new version. I have not yet added patch ability. The good news is that the install is relatively quick.

* I am updating the WikiDot Imperia wiki periodically and this will be the best document for questions and how to play Imperia. Please refer back to it frequently.

Fixes

* Fixed another issue with trade – now all trade hubs should send food and materials both upstream and downstream

* Fixed recurring/duplicate event notifications

* Fixed issue where if 2 Edicts were in a queue and one was deleted, it would cause an out of index error, crashing the game

* Fixed issue where a newly colonized planet would not actually know it was attached to the Empire, causing issues

* Fixed issue where you could create an outpost on a planet that was being colonized

* Fixed Edict calculation issue that did not take distance between the sector capital and the planet into account if sector ADM was being used

* Fixed issue where assigning a new colony a designation would not properly assign the sectors

* Fixed issue where colonization range was double what was shown on the map

* Fixed inconsistency between empire edict time estimate on Edict Creation screen and actual time remaining

* Fixed issue where removing a governor or viceroy would not calculate the correct power for a turn, causing huge issues with unrest that turn (basically a divide by 0 error)

* Fixed issue where characters would have very low PoSups upon generation

* Fixed some duplicate/advance traits for characters. For example, characters that are cruel are no longer craven as well, since cruel is more harsh than craven. This is a work in progress.

Changes/Additions

* Changed Edict material calculation. Now, if a planet has materials, but no ADM, those materials will still be used – there is no need for the ADM-lending planet to donate additional materials. This solved the issue of wasting materials on a planet that already had plenty, just no ADM to do anything with them. Note that planets with no materials will still be unable to use their ADM to obtain them.

* Added the remainder of the planet event statuses on the system screen

* Updated more graphics, also centered and optimized more text strings

* Recategorized alerts to be more helpful. For example, a riot that causes damage is a critical alert, but a small riot that does no harm is now considered serious (orange). This should help to make alerts more useful.

* Added Luxury mineral effects on the service sector. Now a luxury mineral rating above 50 will increase the profit of this sector, while a rating below 50 will lower it.

* Added Luxury mineral effects to unrest – more effective luxury minerals combined with the size of the service sector will lower unrest

* Added Effective Luxury Mineral rating – this is the second # on the right of the slash. Shows mineral rating that is effective after trades and propagation is taken into account

* Added Unrest modifiers to the Demographics tab. This will show you the major factors in a planet’s average unrest and change.

* Added ability to designate new colonies’ Primary Designations during creation

* Added note that no Edicts may be enacted on a planet that is being colonized

* Completely rewrote how Pops emigrate and choose planets – now instead of moving to the first planet they find that meets their criteria, they now have a ranked list that they can reach with some random thrown in, and then choose from that list with the most desirable planets weighted most heavily. This will create population clusters and allows more realistic movement, where system events will effect entire sectors without a simple ‘pop bouncing’ between 2 nearby planets

* Exploration stations can now be built at any distance. This will encourage more exploration, but the time and resources needed to deploy a faraway station will be higher

* Added ADL to main planet screen. Now always visible along with class, Bio rating, and scan level

* Adjusted numerous UI displays to correspond to these changes

* Added continuum checks to each character – now actions and traits will adjust the character’s continuum rating each month

* Added secondary designation slots on UI in preparation for secondary designations

* Added expanded information about trade network on system screen – now all planets will show their status vis a vis the trade network

* Added check upstream and downstream to see if luxury minerals propagate through a trade network in a sector. This means that planets which are connected to the trade network in a given sector will send a portion of their luxury mineral value if that adjusted value is still superior to planets that are upstream or downstream; the portion will be relative to how far away they are from a hub

* Added arrow showing loss in economic sector due to riots

* Added bio rating to affect manufacturing profit – anything below 50 will seriously affect profitability

* Added retirement subsidy – now retired population will receive a subsidy somewhat lower, but roughly equal to the unemployment subsidy for that planet (depending on the ADL of the planet). You will be able to reduce or eliminate these at the risk of unrest and lowered posup if you are in a financial bind

* Added character continuum rating to affect their posup – however, characters that are powerful and have a high Tyrannical rating will see their posup increase due to fear

* Completely rewrote how retail and service profits are generated. Before, it used a rather complex but not-very-realistic formula. Now, 4 different values are calculated as part of the overall calculation:

* Profit per item – looks at wages, production sector efficiency, and luxury mineral quality

* Service budget – how much money people on the planet have to spend on retail items

* Amount of sales items – determined both by trade and by production capacity. Factors in food and manufactured goods, with a bonus for inherent retail sector capacity (small stores that offer services for money, but not necessarily goods)

* Service Efficiency – are there enough service workers in the sector to effectively sell all the goods for sale?

From those 4 values, it next determines the maximum amount of the theoretical budget that people will use, based on popular support, unrest, and unemployment. Generally, the better people are feeling about the planet’s situation, the more of their maximum budget they will spend in a given month. What this means in practice is that a planet can have the highest quality goods in the world, but if there are not enough people to either buy them or sell them, your retail sector will suffer. Conversely, you can have all the demand in the world for goods but if your planet can not produce them or ship them in, your stores will be empty. However, if you have both quality goods and the people to buy them, you can make huge profits.

* Added new submode to the Economic tab: Government Spending. This will break down all the subsidies and Edicts that a planetary government is spending its money on so that you can (finally) see where all a planet’s money is going. Details on each category will appear on the right-hand side when you mouse over a particular category.

* Added new Intel screen submode – Character Intel. Here you can see a list of all the characters in your empire, and communicate directly with them by clicking on their info. Also added buttons to toggle between Planet Intel and Character Intel.

* Added additional popular support factor – if a planet is using the sector subsidy to stay afloat, your people won’t like that much

* Added governor information on SID to assist with character interactions

* Changed the scale of money – now million is billion, billion is trillion, etc. to match the scale of an interstellar empire. Note that all figures are in thousands, so 1,000,000 is actually a billion (1,000,000,000). This is to keep the memory and space requirement down.

* Added new music, including new opening theme, and starting to add game sound effects

Balance

* Changed the riot system to have a minimum threshold planet-wide so that a planet cannot have riots if the overall planet unrest level is below 30. This prevents strange mini-riots on an otherwise very peaceful planet

* Lowered PoSup effects, both positive and negative, across the board. This will make for a more flowing game.

* No Starbase will make emigrating from a planet much more difficult, with larger Starbases making planets more of an immigration target.

* Exploration stations have been tweaked upward to compensate for their removal of range limitations

* Adjusted the wage adjustment calculations to take into effect viceroy traits and designations

* Adjusted the emigration change slightly upward to tie in with rewritten emigration routine

* Increased the overall amount of goods that make it to the destination, somewhat nerfed the distance modifier

* Adjusted the retail sector calculation to take into effect luxury minerals much more heavily

* Adjusted the profitability of the manufacturing sector downward

* Increased sector population per level of sector – increasing the base amount of pops who can be employed per level.

* Changed the effect of industrial taxes on whether a given sector expands or contracts – higher taxes will be much more likely to decrease the sector level, reflecting ‘choking off’ profitability and reinvestment

* Increased substantially amount of money that planets can potentially have at game start, making it less likely they start off ‘in the hole’ and giving you time to make changes, since there is now a penalty to your poSup for planets going broke

Unresolved Issues

* When loading a game, sometimes the alerts are in the wrong category. This only happens for the current turn and is more annoying than anything. Investigating.

* If you use the mousewheel to scroll up and down intel lists, it also effects the zoom level of the quadrant map. I can fix this, but it will require a rewrite of the zoom function and is not a huge priority at this time.