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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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New .230 version coming very soon!

Based on some feedback, and some things I wanted to add and clarify, I am releasing one more .2xx version before moving on to version .3xx. There is a lot of stuff here, so as soon as I’m reasonably sure I didn’t break anything, it’s out to you!

Imperia V.230 Change Log/Readme

5.25.14

 

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 Sourceforge 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 a small bug where science outposts created agriculture sectors, but no science sector

* Fixed bug where starbases could be higher than level 5, but show nothing

* Fixed bug where stellar missions could be supported from a sector that had no starbase, but was within range

* Fixed allocation of materials for Edicts. Had a kludge fix in place, but now will allow use of as many materials as possible without going below 0 on a planet

* Fixed serious intel screen bug where if two planets shared the exact same value, an exception would occur.

* Fixed bug where edict times could, with sufficient influence, be pushed to below 0, sometimes causing a NaN error

* Not a bug, per se, but removed the block on children and retired people moving, since it could in extreme situations lead to situations on very bad planets where they would turn into a ‘Peter Pan’ world with only kids and old folk left

 

 

Changes/Additions

* Added new Edict, Deploy Exploration Station, a smaller version of a starbase that can only be built above unclaimed planets. Allows stellar missions within the system that it is built. Destroyed once a planet is colonized, but some of the materials are added to the planet’s reserves.

* Added new Edict, Build/Upgrade Logistical Station, a smaller version of a Starbase that can be built above any owned planet. This station allows stellar missions at the range of a Starbase, but does not ship goods to and from the planet, and missions based from this base take longer depending on level. Upgradable to Level III, at which point they may be converted into a starbase. Building a Starbase scraps this base (unless level 3), but some of the materials are returned to the planet and added to their stock.

* Added new Character Action, Embargo Planet/System/Sector. This will block these entities from receiving replenishment goods from the Imperial Capital, and if they are a trade hub, it will block supplies from coming through their trade hubs. Naturally, this will really piss off the leader in question, but you may want to do this to redirect goods to a more critical part of the Empire.

* Added UI labels showing embargo is present in system screen.

* Added tooltip in Character Screen to show how much ADM an action would cost.

* Added darker shaded circle to show Logistic Stations on quadrant map, vs. starbases.

* Added foundation for UI changes depending on how you are running your Empire. Eventually, most of the UI will change depending on your Nationalist/Tyrannical rating, for now the quadrant and system info background will start black and slowly fade into blue or red, respectively, as your ratings change

* Assigned Nat/Tyr rating adjustment range to every action/ edict/ designation currently active, instead of just a few test actions

* Effects of Starbase levels are now factored into a Stellar edict’s time to complete. Higher levels make the Edict more efficient to complete.

* Effects of Logistics Station levels are now factored into a Stellar edict’s time to complete. Higher levels make the Edict more efficient to complete, but not as efficient as a Starbase.

* Added Edict Class to be more explicit – the class type now shows up on Edict screen. Displays Terrestrial, Stellar, or Both. Stellar Edicts can only be performed by planets that have a Starbase or Logistics station in range, or an Exploration Station in the system

* Added new Primary Designation, Penal Prison World. This allows you to designate planets as prison planets, where any viceroy within range of this world can send especially unhappy pops to mitigate unrest on their world. Only craven, cruel, corrupt, and despotic viceroys will do this, however, and building one will seriously impact your Tyrannical rating. Building several will be… interesting, shall we say. On the plus side, since ‘workers’ are paid next to nothing, penal worlds generally turn a tidy profit and use few minerals. Plus, they come with a ‘free’ Starbase.

* Changed to where the Imperial Capital can support stellar missions in range of the planet if no other sector or system is eligible. This is an experimental change, suggested by the community

* Changed formula to check for mineral loss on a planet to weight planet class, so that larger planets lose minerals much more slowly than tiny planets.

* Added a check during calculating job Prestige to consider the system rank when calculating. In other words, it’s way more prestigious to work for a Sector Capital government than it is a backwater colony government. This should fix some of the ‘sector capital hellhole’ issues, while creating more delineation for capitals and colonies.

* Changed ‘deception’ to ‘ambition’ for character stats, in preparation for character plots/personality engine

* Added a System Value stat for systems that measures ‘system prestige’ from a sector governor’s standpoint. Basically, the more profitable and populated the system, the more prestigious the system is to have, and it will cause more anger losing a highly prestigious system than an unexplored backwater, and create conversely more loyalty and happiness for the receiving governor. Also useful to weigh relative value when deciding whether to reassign systems.

 

Balance

* Lowered costs to abandon planets

* With the station changes, decreased chance of stations showing up at game start

* Slightly increased minimum engine range in order to create less hopeless situations 🙂

* Added negative PoSup effect (and tooltip) for when a planet is changing designations.

* Lowered requirement for Stellar missions to any Starbase, since you can now build Exploration and Logistical stations.

* Massively increased Science revenue per t/B of production (from 300 to 2000), this will hopefully not make science planets useless for now

* With the start of the UI changes reflecting your Na/Ty rating, tweaked actions to create more of an effect so that the UI can be seen to change

 

Unresolved Issues

* For a very small # of people (that I know of) mousing over certain systems causes a CTD. I am still investigating.