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INSPIRED BY OUR LOVE of making things, automating things, mechanical things, robotic things and stop-frame animation, Autonauts is a game about making and teaching robots to make and automate worlds!
We’ve been tinkering with Autonauts since April of this year with the most basic of prototypes. In late June we released our first Pre-Pre-Pre-Alpha version (you can see a playthrough here). Since then, every week without fail, we’ve updated the game with new features, enhancements and bug fixes, always in touch with and prioritising feedback from our growing, discerning community of early adopters.
If you haven't come across Autonauts before, check out the latest version on itch.io.
The 'Automationauts' (to give them their fuller, grander, longerwindeder title) travel the universe with the sole goal of setting worlds in motion through the power of automation.
To do this they harness whatever natural resources are available; they learn fast and can eventually make pretty much anything from anything. But their most important creations are their robots, which can be made from the crudest of materials and taught to do anything an Autonaut can do (and often better).
Your reign of automation begins by building 'bots (some types are better suited to some jobs than others). Next, you show your ‘bots how to do their jobs. Teach them to become lumberjacks, farmers, miners, loaders, transporters, shipbuilders, sailors, anglers, cooks, engineers, mechanics, wheelwrights, labourers, cleaners, carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, carers and more.
And when we say “teach them” we mean literally show them what to do so they learn from your actions. This is what makes Autonauts so special.
How well you teach your ‘bots determines how well they work. They tend to take you literally, so be careful what you do while they’re watching. You may even end up poking around in their brains a little to edit their scripts through a simple ‘drag and drop’ programming interface. Either way, the key to effective, trouble-free automation is efficiency.
Once you’ve got the hang of teaching ‘bots to do your bidding, bring together teams of ‘bots to setup automated industries from the ground up, from forestries and farms to mills, mines and quarries. Ultimately you found factories to mass-produce goods.
We’ve decided not to introduce any combat, significant threat or other similar pressure for the foreseeable future. Wear and tear and maintenance is one of your biggest challenges - and that’s perfectly manageable (and enjoyable) with sensible automation.
The reason you need to make robots and automate everything is for the wellbeing of the the world's folk who know nothing, do nothing and are going nowhere (it’s a wonder they survived for this long).
This innocent species has basic needs that must be met if it's to thrive and become civilised. These folk need shelter, food and water, clothing, companionship, good health, a sense of security, education, art... Everything we take for granted to make life worth living.
Folk communicate by making noises, making faces, striking poses and thinking thoughts that only you and your ‘bots can read. This information helps you decide how best to meet and automate their needs - and keep them happy.
One moment folk have a craving for fruit, the next it’s cake (look, it’s your fault for introducing it to them in the first place); then they’re too cold or too hot; they feel lonely, bored, scared, uncomfortable, unwell; they need the toilet, a bath, entertaining... They want want WANT and it never seems to stop.
Lucky for them, they have you - and your ‘bots - to serve them.
Your ultimate goal is to help the folk discover The True Meaning of Life.
As it stands, the game features an amalgamation of limited technologies from the ancient past and the middles ages, with a little ‘early modern age’ thrown in for good measure. What we want to do is take this to the next level...
Over the course of six months we will make it incrementally possible to fully automate five industrial zones, a town full of folk and a transport system to join everything together, all to a technology level akin to the end of the 18th century.
We want to provide more structure and formal challenges to encourage and recognise your success at automating. We want to take Autonauts from its current ‘proof of concept’ state to a first proper version of the game as we see it.
We will also ensure the following key improvements happen during the six months of development time.
- The terrain will be generated procedurally from a random seed and shaped by rules to make sure you always get a great place to play.
- You'll be able to modify the cells that make up the terrain, to better customise your world to suit your needs.
- The ‘bot scripting system will be rewritten from the ground up to make it more powerful for those who favour lower-level fiddling. This will accommodate the likes of conditional statements, arithmetic, variables and comparators.
- Significantly increasing the scope for customisation of you, your ‘bots and the folk.
The following outline timeline shows roughly where we think we are in terms of our technology evolution (red zone), where we want to go during the course of six months (green zone) and where we intend to be much further along (white).
This example map illustrates the kind of structure we will support during the six months of development (obviously different players will have their own preferences).
Here you see a central town surrounded by five key industries: farming, textiles, mining, forestry and masonry (quarry) - plus a watermill, a boatyard and a sawmill, all linked by suitable bridges and an early rail network using a steam train service.
With farming we will embrace automating agriculture on a broader scale to make use of ploughs, crop rotation, root vegetables, pigs, chickens, horses, cheese, bees and livestock breeding. Automate mills with looms, weaving and dyeing to manufacture textiles, clothing and sails.
A more mature forestry sees you tackling huge trees with two-’bot saws and then log driving before processing timber to build new homes, barns, ships, furniture and machinery. Expand your transportation options with the addition of horse-drawn carts, rowboats, ships and steam trains.
The creation of substantial quarries focuses on extracting stone and making the most of masonry skills to shape it, which leads to the construction of bigger, sturdier buildings, aqueducts and more.
Develop your mining operation by going underground to acquire metal and coal, then build foundries to convert these essential resources for evolved metalwork potential and a powerful (but polluting) power source.
A closer look at a map of our example town reveals a possible structure and the kinds of services we might choose to have up and running to meet our folk’s needs.
The central park gives a focussed space for the folk’s leisure time.
The Fishmonger stocks fish caught fresh from the local river, while the Grocer has fruit and vegetables freshly grown on the local farm and the Baker team bakes bread and cakes using locally-sourced ingredients.
The Clothing crew provides all sorts of bodywear made from local textiles, while the Laundry keep the town’s clothing clean and the Bath House does the same for the town’s folk.
The Carpenter team makes woodenware for all, including carts and wheels for carts; the Livery Stables house horses, while the Blacksmith supplies all local forged metal needs, including shoes for the horses.
The Doc uses locally-made medicine from the neighbouring Chemist to care for the folk in their times of sickness.
Aaron and I have been making games together for almost two decades, first at DMA Design and then at Denki.
Between us we’ve worked on dozens of different games, everything from AAA to ZZZ, on pretty much every type of game and on pretty much every platform: PC, Mac, N64, PlayStation, Dreamcast, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Set-Top Box, iOS, Flash, HTML5...
As proud as we are to have worked on such a collection of quality over the decades, Autonauts is the first game we’ve made together that really feels like ‘us.’
Since we made our first Autonauts Pre-Pre-Pre-Alpha available through itch.io, people have chosen to donate money to support us. While this has helped us keep up our weekly updates, it’s not enough income to help us fund further development of Autonauts to make it the proper game it deserves to become.
Whatever happens, come 2018 we will stop working on the existing version of Autonauts - either because of a lack of funds or because we've met our funding goal so we can focus on the new, improved version. The final itch.io version we make will remain available for download regardless.
These will be revealed and unlocked as our campaign unfolds! (Spoiler: see 'Our Timeline' above for clues.)
Risks and challenges
Given our experience with making games (which includes taking Autonauts this far) we are more than confident we can deliver all that we've promised - and more.
We’d be foolish to ignore the potential for the unexpected (so we don't), but the most important thing is that our progress can always easily be judged by our regular, playable *weekly updates* and how they align with the proposed plan.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)