48% funded in 3.5 hours! Q&A time!
Chris here. Whoah! You guys really rock. :)
Hopefully we're well on track to not only hit the base funding goal, but also start smashing stretch goals. Sure is a nice change of pace from the first campaign, despite the fact that reached $93k by the end.
WolfWhiteFire notes "I know that this hasn't been on long, but we need some updates." So... okay, sure. ;) There have been a lot of questions coming up, and many of those we addressed in the FAQs at the bottom of the campaign page.
But there are some other ones that have come up from the comments, and I figured I'd bubble those up to this first update:
Q: Will There Be More Stretch Goals?
Keith: We have solid ideas for other ones but we didn't want to list more until we hit our base goal. By then we'll have a better idea of what's a good fit.
Chris: If we exceed these first three stretch goals... honestly I'm not sure what #4 will be. We have a long list of possibilities, and I'm not sure which thing would be both most-desired by players, as well as fitting with the current state of the project the best.
Q: How come I can't easily get multiple copies?
Chris: You can! With BackerKit, add-ons are easier to set up, and we'll be using that later. But prior to the project closing you can still pledge extra above a tier, and then just tell us what addons you selected (which includes extra copies of the game). There's a section in the middle of the project that has addons listed, and their prices.
Q: Will the reward tiers restructure to be more like the original kickstarter's if enough money is raised?
Keith: Potentially. The main reason for the removal of many of them is that there's not money (or money for the time required) in the budget for the people who would be doing those things.
Some of the folks who were originally slated to do those things may or may not still be available due to finding other work. That said, yes, the rewards selection could expand again if funding gets high enough.
Comment: I hadn't noticed that the promotional video was different. I watched it just now and...oh my good lord...this game is going to be gorgeous!
Chris: Thank you so much for the kind words on the graphics and the new teaser video! In one sense I really dropped the ball with the video and was only able to do a teaser rather than a full video, but that's largely because I spent so much time working on getting things to look a lot better.
Blue has been working like crazy on the GUI, and Cinth has been murdering redundant polygons like you wouldn't believe (seriously he quarters the poly counts in some cases with no visual difference, it's bonkers.
Blue has also been working on learning substance painter, and that's something that I am hoping we get to take for a spin on the larger ships here -- the Ark, and other really central things. Unlike past painting tools we've used like ZBrush and Mudbox, the low-poly nature doesn't matter at all for substance painter, which is really helpful -- we can paint away without having to do a bunch of subdivisions and then shrinkage again. We haven't been able to show any of that off just yet, but that's been a huge thing Blue has been working on intensively.
Some of these things pay dividends for this project and other future projects, so I don't mind footing the bill for them. :)
Q: Your last funding goal was just under $300,000. With this new funding goal of $50,000, what changes have you made that will allow this game to be completed?
Chris: We had to really evaluate our scope. The original goal was based around us doing EVERYTHING all in one go, versus over time. There were a few reasons for that aggressiveness, but the main one was that I wanted to avoid having to lay off staff. We gave it our best go, but ultimately that was not meant to be. In some of the later updates on the first kickstarter, we went into a lot of detail on what all changed, if you want to read them:
- First update with differences and changes in Arcen
- Second update with even more clarity about what is changing in the re-launched design
- Third update that breaks things out in more bullet points and has even more info
- Before we were trying to replicate all of AI War Classic, plus more or less all its six expansions, PLUS new stuff. With a lot more staff, too. So that gets pricey, particularly when you pay people a living wage (some devs that are on their first project live together in apartments eating ramen or whatever, but almost all of us have kids).
- This time around the entire premise of what we're doing is different: with Keith at the helm, he's really focused on making the best possible version of the new game that he can, which we can then build up further over time. It won't ever be quite the same thing that the original kickstarter was aimed at, because that was my design and there are some fundamental differences in how we approach things as designers. But I'm really excited about what he has planned here -- and I've been really enjoying my area of programming/art work, and the usual producer duties.
- You'll see Keith answering more questions this time around than me, though, because ultimately the buck is stopping with him design-wise. So I try very much not to speak for him and accidentally misrepresent something or commit him to something he doesn't intend. Different dynamic than last time.
- For the most part, I'll have to work on other projects with my time other than a month or so here, unless we hit a ton of stretch goals. That wasn't my first choice obviously, but it's better that than having the project die. This paves the way for years of updates, whereas before we were trying to do everything all in one lump.
Q: If AI War 2 is accepted on GOG, can I redeem my key there?
Chris: Yes, if AI War 2 comes to GOG, my intent is that everyone gets a GOG key. I believe the GOG Connect thing would work for it anyhow (it does for some of our other titles that are on GOG). There's absolutely no objections to that on this end, so unless GOG says no for some reason -- which I highly doubt given the existence of GOG Connect in the first place -- then we're all good there.
Q: Quick question pertaining to the soundtrack; What dictates the remastered "top hits" when we hit that first stretch goal?
Chris: Pablo had a list of tracks that he had chosen when his budget was $20k, and this was them.
However, he's having to cut that down for the new budget, and I'm not sure exactly which tracks he's going to focus on.
We hope to fund ongoing soundtrack expansions through a just-for-Pablo patreon or future stretch goals, or something along those lines. Those are thoughts for later, mainly; but yes, we're really hoping and expecting to hit that first stretch goal, too. :)
Q: When the new soundtrack is funded, will the old tracks still be in the new game? Or will someone need to mod them in?
Chris: I don't know that the existing soundtrack from the first game will be included by default, because there's a pretty big quality difference in the old mastering let alone orchestration versus what he does now. So that might be kind of jarring if it's in there by default.
Potentially we could have some sort of option to turn it on, if he's okay with that. Not sure. beyond that, adding in music is going to be just as easy (actually easier!) compared to the first game. Turns out we'll be able to stream mp3s as well as ogg files now, not just ogg files; the latency and so forth on that will be better, too, which I'm excited about.
Since the first kickstarter, there are a number of technical things that Keith and I have figured out in a positive way. :)
Q: So if the spire stretch goal is hit, will it be not a new race so much as the humans and spire working together like in the first game?
Keith: On my phone right now, but yes: Spire gameplay will be a Spire/Human alliance like in classic. The difference is that you start together and can get to the different gameplay faster, which was one of the main goals of the separate-from-lobby model.
Ultimately the separate model involves a lot more balancing (now and whenever we expand the game) and a lot more art to do right.
It would have been a lot more like defender mode than fallen spire in impact on the game. The latter was much more successful.
Chris: Fun fact is that I was implementing defender mode back while he was doing fallen spire. When I say you guys are in good hands with him as the lead designer, I bloody well mean it. ;)
Q: Would you consider a 'future DLC' pack add-on for this game?
Chris: We get asked about this sort of thing -- or lifetime passes for DLC for this game, season passes, etc -- and that's something I'm against and unfortunately not going to change my mind on. I feel it is inherently consumer-hostile to have season passes.
To elaborate: it creates an implied obligation on Arcen's part that I'm not comfortable with. Let's say that AI War 2 releases and does pretty well, but for some reason we are not able to make expansions for a few years, or at all. Maybe it's not financially viable for some reason, or maybe Keith gets abducted by Burlusts.
In those circumstances, we'd be under a lot of stress from feeling like we're betraying those people who were kind enough to buy the season pass thingies. And a lot of those people probably would not feel great either, whether they "knew the risks" or not.
I'd like to think that everything will work out ideally with the project, but when I'm setting up any sort of circumstance where there is an obligation the company now has -- moral or legal or otherwise -- then I try to think through the less-ideal cases instead. In the case of a season pass, there are a variety of them that make me deeply uncomfortable and that I'm not willing to risk betraying a moral obligation for a few bucks.
When it comes to something like a Kickstarter or Early Access where you give us money in advance, we take it SUPER seriously and make sure that we budget very distinctly and are able to deliver on what we are promising. With a season pass, we wouldn't be able to do that -- and a lot of developers have gotten themselves into trouble by putting themselves in that position.
Q: Did the direct-flight "easter egg" from the first campaign go away?
Chris: Yeah. :( That was something I was going to do in my own spare time just because I thought it would be super fun, but at this point there's a lot of other things that I'm doing for this project in my "spare time" (hmm) that take priority. You never know, it might come back! Either way, I want to make an actual game like that someday. But right now it didn't fit in the budget.
Q: What's the current state of the project?
Chris: We actually made a lot of progress between the two campaigns on that front! There were some things that Keith and I felt like we needed to get worked out before this second campaign so that we'd be sure of our budget. Previously he and I had separate prototypes for the simulation and the visual parts of the game.
In the last couple of weeks, we've merged those together, and that's off to a great start. He already had a lot of things with the simulation going, like all the crazy multithreading stuff and the more-efficient simulation and heap-stasis and network data sends, etc.
I've still got to do the replacement of the actual network transport layer, which will add yet another layer of efficiency in there, and we don't have squads fully wired up yet, but we've got it set up so that an approach for the modding the graphics is in place and he's triggering my things via xml, etc.
Keith also figured out some killer things on how to allow mods to actually do some scripting in C#, which is a huge upgrade over what we promised in the first campaign.
Thanks to generally having more delays with having to retool and do a new kickstarter, we've pushed back the first alpha builds for backers (at those alpha backer tiers) to February instead of January.
We've made good progress despite being so busy with the kickstarter, though, and for myself I'm expecting to be able to make even more progress during this campaign since Keith will be answering a lot of the questions this go-round. Before it was the opposite, and he was able to get work done while I answered questions, so all's fair. ;)
Q: You asked for a bunch of feedback on what to put in a video, and then didn't do any of it?
Chris: Nobody asked this, but to me it was the elephant in the room, since the video is my thing. I wound up splitting this into TWO videos (well, actually three, thanks to the teaser you see currently on the campaign), one of which will be the main campaign video, and the other which will be a "Whiteboarding AI War 2 with Chris" video.
I actually managed to take a lot of good video this time around, unlike last time where mostly all I got was bloopers. I used a better camera and a shotgun mic (that I don't have to sit so close to), and the whiteboard helped me focus on something other than just myself sitting there. I've got that mostly edited, but it still needs work to be ready to fully show. So early next week, I'd say.
One of the really big things I want to show in the new video that is actually the campaign video is real combat, and for that partly it needs new ships, etc. You'll notice that the ships have much better visuals this time around compared to the first campaign (I finally figured out a visual style for the AI ships!), and so those things and special effects have been slowing me down.
Although "slowing me down" is kind of a misnomer -- really I for some reason decided to pack in a ton more work into the prep for that video, so you're seeing something a lot closer to final quality for the game in it, with more special effects and so forth. The janky bits of animation and texturing from the first kickstarter are out the window, which I'm happy about.
Hence the teaser video in the meantime, which I feel bad about, but seemed like a good compromise.
Until Next Time!
Keith or I (or both) will have another update for you soon! Next time we'll try to have more images in it, rather than a giant wall of text. But I guess that's the nature of a Q&A.