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Finally a sequel to the award-winning, genre breaking, asymmetric strategy cult classic.  The most sentient AI in gaming.
Sequel to the award-winning, genre-breaking, asymmetric strategy cult classic.  The most sentient AI in gaming.
Sequel to the award-winning, genre-breaking, asymmetric strategy cult classic.  The most sentient AI in gaming.
2,545 backers pledged $97,205 to help bring this project to life.

The Spire: Beam Weapons For Fun And Profit

Posted by Keith LaMothe

Keith here. Thanks so very much for funding our base goal and our first stretch goal (new soundtrack by Pablo Vega!). You folks are awesome.

So, what's the next Stretch Goal?

The Spire. (Cue epic soundtrack)

What are the Spire?

One of the key alien races in the AI War universe. They're really awesome.

Why are they awesome?

As in many things, it comes down to size. Human capital ships are pretty big compared to their other ships. But on a galactic scale, Humans are a brand new star-faring species, inexperienced in construction techniques, galactic knowledge, and (probably the worst problem) computer intelligence design. The largest human empires only covered a tiny fraction of the Milky Way galaxy and this is reflected in ship and fleet designs. So even the greatest and largest human capital ships are but a fraction of the size of the ancient Zenith golems. Thus when it comes to fights against the AI's more advanced Guardians (not to mention its Dire Guardians) humans have to rely on numbers rather than individually powerful craft.

The Spire, on the other hand, are an advanced elder race. They can build big ships, and we mean capital BIG. They have the technology, the resources, and the territory to build and maintain these immense platforms. Combined with this size advantage is their more advanced technology in weapons and shielding. Against the larger Spire capital ships even Dire Guardians simply melt.

Now, if you were engaged in a last-ditch guerrilla war against an implacable inhuman foe, wouldn't you want big ships on your side? Sure you would.

There is one catch, however. You know how your survival depends on not attracting too much AI attention? You know how the galaxy crashes down on your head unless you're subtle?

Yeah, the Spire are not subtle.

What could go wrong?

So how do the Spire work (non-spoiler edition)?

You start a new game with a Spire Colony Ship. You do some things. The AI gets mad. And then you get really cool toys (and the AI gets really mad).

So how do the Spire work (spoiler edition)?

Our current plan is that the Spire will work in much the same way as they did in the Fallen Spire campaign in AI War Classic, with a few key differences. It is a little complicated, so I’ll explain this general plan first and then focus on those key differences at the end.

1) When starting a new game you will be able to add a Spire Colony Ship to your initial fleet.

2) This colony ship is a fearsome combatant in its own right, but that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to transform into a Spire Citadel. Choose the time and place carefully, as the AI will sit up and take notice. Nonetheless, careful planning will let you ramp up production and power quite quickly.

3) The Citadel can be expanded with shard reactors, habitation centers, and shipyards. Each Citadel structure mounts incredibly powerful modular and customizable defenses. Devastating beam cannons, massive shield generators, and so on. You will need those defenses, as the AI will respond to your Human-Spire alliance with vicious Exogalactic Strikeforces.

  • A habitation center synthesizes large quantities of usable metal for you, and allows the citadel to support more structures.
  • A shard reactor provides substantial local power as well as the unique radiation needed by the shipyards.
  • A shipyard constructs and supports the real solution to your problems: Spire Capital Ships.

One Citadel can only support so many shipyards, which can only support so many of these ships (and only the smaller classes). And constructing additional colony ships is (initially) beyond your capacity.

4) Thankfully, the means to expand are out there. One of your Ark's special Hacking abilities allows it to scan for the remnants of ancient Spire outposts. Scanning will point you in the direction you’ll need to go to find these outposts. Once you've narrowed it down to a specific system, scanning there will reveal and bring the core of the ancient Spire outpost, the artifact, aboard your Ark.

Unfortunately, scanning literally bombards the local planetary systems with strong communication signals. As you might expect, that will attract the AI's attention to your Ark.. But that's nothing compared to what happens once the artifact is aboard. Suffice it to say that you'll want to get back to a Citadel pronto to weather the storm.

With each additional artifact, you can build an another Spire Colony Ship and found an additional Citadel.

5) As you construct more Citadels and shipyards, bigger and more powerful Spire ships and technology become available.

Once you reach a certain critical mass... well, you'll see :)

So what's different from AIW Classic's Fallen Spire?

AIW Classic's Fallen Spire (FS) had two major design objectives:  

  • Give the player the option of shifting from guerrilla war to open war.  
  • Provide something like a scripted campaign.

FS succeeded wonderfully in its first design objective. Many players play AIW Classic more often with FS than without. Some play it exclusively that way.

But AIW Classic's codebase was not supportive of scripted behavior, so it had to be hardcoded. It was extremely time-consuming to implement. It also took a long time to stamp out the bugs.

So FS only moderately succeeded in the second design objective.

As a result, and given our budget, the main difference in the sequel's implementation of the Spire is that it's only trying to meet the first objective. As is the Arcen-way, we are also going to be implementing and making improvements based on years of user feedback (but you already know that).

We do want to do scripted stuff again someday, but it means creating a solid scenario-building framework (basically a major extension of what's planned for tutorials) to provide the tools to do the job right. That will take a lot of time and money. It's a potential future stretch goal for this project, but it would be for delivery after the currently projected timeline.

Tell me more about these Improvements?

1) We are going to reduce the time it takes to have your first Citadel operational, so you can start getting to the real power that much faster. But you still have the option of sticking with a minor Spire ally (the initial Colony Ship, like FS's outpost and frigates) and expand the Spire side if and when you want to.

2) The process of finding additional artifacts (shards in the FS sense) used to be a "scan on your homeworld, and then we'll tell you exactly which system the thing is in" process. Now it will be much more a "you're getting warmer..." process where you take your Ark and a big fleet and go cruising for a bruising.

3) Because your Ark is actually involved in the recovery, the hunt and chase are both more interesting (and terrifying). Further, this change allows the force that chases you when you recover an artifact to be a finite one-time assault rather than an ongoing spawn that literally forces you to retreat to your homeworld. Now you get to choose where you make your stand, or just keep running.

4) I know graphics aren't the most important thing to most AI War players, but c'mon, huge battles with giant shielded capital ships firing off all those beam weapons... it's gonna look way better now :)

Will the secret alternate victory condition still be there?

Oh yes. Oh yes indeedy.

Subtlety? Hah.

Live long and conquer, 


(Note: To those in the US: Happy Thanksgiving! We're going to be fairly scarce around here until Monday, so the next video will be next week, but there will probably be another AI-focused update on Friday)

Ian, Anthony Tompkins, and 20 more people like this update.


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    1. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      @Bryon Daly: There will still be placement restrictions, as part of the idea is that you have to conquer a lot of the map to get to the five citadels (cities) needed for the alternate victory.

      That said, they don't have to be exactly the same restrictions. And potentially it might be more like "you have to own X planets per existing citadel to plant a new one", so you can put them wherever you like. Though I'm not sure that gives more flexibility overall.

      @Pat: Indeed. Nothing quite like tazing entire AI fleets :)

    2. Missing avatar

      Pat on

      > So if we hit it, modular stuff is back
      I would have missed those Riot Control Starships Mk2 tasers :)

    3. Missing avatar

      Bryon Daly on

      Are the spire still going to have all the same limitations about where you can build their cities? (IIRC they must be 3 hops away from all other spire cities, not next to any AI planets, and not on a dead-end planet (IWO planet must have multiple wormholes)). These restrictions made it really hard to get multiple cities, and nearly impossible on some map styles.

    4. WolfWhiteFire on

      You might want to mention that modular ships come back with the spire stretch goal in it's description, or in an update (other than the brief mention here). Simply because that would be one more thing for people to be excited about. Excitement can bring attention and funding (even if only a little), so the more excitement the better.

    5. Missing avatar

      Joshua Koh on

      This sounds super awesome. I am one of those mentioned players who is always playing with FS on, regardless of whether we got the FS route or not. Combining the mechanics if AIW2 like the mobile Command Center sounds like a heckuva lot of fun!!
      Funny enough, I *did* feel like FS in original-AIW provided a scripted campaign experience which fit within the open-ended AIW formula of "build your own strategy and solution to the problem". To have an even more structured campaign to play through should prove to be really really cool, I hope.

    6. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      @Tridus: yes, modular stuff had been cut due to needing significant UI work to be reasonable, but said UI work is a chunk of the budget for this stretch goal. So if we hit it, modular stuff is back.

    7. Tridus on

      So, modular ships and bulidings are in?

    8. Missing avatar

      Andrew Lyon on

      Photon lances best lances, after all ;D

    9. Sounds on


      Pledge tier now updated. :)

    10. Missing avatar


      As one of the FS-only players, I'm VERY interested to see us hit this stretch goal.