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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 Nemesis: Doom Doom Doooooom...

Posted by Keith LaMothe

Keith here.

Woo! You have reached the Spire stretch goal! Thank you!

Our current kickstarter projection monkey says that we are {tomato sauce}% likely to make the next stretch goal with a margin of error of 3 grapefruits. (Keith’s note: find new projection monkey).

If we do, well… Let’s let an old friend tell us what will happen...

(this is a picture of the Devourer Golem from AIW Classic)

Devourer here.

So. Looks like the Spire will be crashing the neighborhood again, and I've got you to thank for it.

(munch, munch, munch. Bits of planetoid-sized chocolate chip cookies are flying everywhere)

Oh well, we mostly leave each other alone nowadays. Though I still eat the small ones. I love spicey rock candy. But Dreadnoughts give me horrid indigestion.

(note from Keith: Again, thank you so much for reaching the Spire goal!)

That's not why I'm here.

I’m here because I was promised popcorn for services rendered…  (takes offered bag of mixed celestial bodies with Ark ships seasoning bits) 

Warning: Devious Enemy Approaching

Actually, I'm here to warn you. If you reach the next stretch goal it's all gonna hit the fan, because the programmer wants to bring my cousin into this.

How does a golem have a cousin? Don't worry about it. I'm not even really a golem like the oth- oh, nevermind. Just trust me, I know this guy. You don't want to mess with him. All the other World Eaters made fun of him on the playground. They're not around anymore. Neither is the playground.

I know you always include me in your games, so you know I'm pretty laid back as cosmic menaces go. If your fleet gets in my way, I eat it. But I eat at least as many AI ships, and occasionally I bail you out by wandering into the middle of a big CPA (Cross Planet Attack) or exo or whatever. Fun times.

Not the Nemesis. Oh no. He doesn't wander. He also holds a grudge. And you just happen to have antagonized him, perhaps because you keep playing that new fangled rock music too loudly in the same universe.

He'll find out where you live and he is going to come for you. This isn’t a casual meandering into your neighborhood sorta coming for you either. This is a he knows your address, your favorite color, and that you keep your wallet under your mattress. He's going to come up with a plan to turn you into an asteroid belt. And he’s going to commit to this plan. Best case scenario is that he happens to miscalculate and you manage to destroy him. You could even do so well that he ends up just a whisp of space dust.

But it isn’t enough.

Did I mention he can regenerate from space dust and that self-immolation is an acceptable result of the first phase of a plan?

Now you might say, “Sure, AI will also suffer his wrath and get in his way, so it isn’t that bad.” Well, bad news, he vacuums up AI ships, sure. But he then redeploys them to fight you, or renders them down to their component atoms and rebuilds them into nasty modules or structures. So anything he consumes will end up arrayed against you.

Let's face it: to the AI you're not a big deal. It'll come after you if you're fool enough to draw attention, but you can get away with a lot if you're careful. But that doesn't work on my cousin.

You have made him mad.

It’s personal.

And if you include him in your game (why would you do that, anyway?) you'll be the only thing on his menu.

How bad can it be you ask? Oh, let me tell you...

There was this one time in a game... we called the player "Mr. Turret's Syndrome" (we're not very mature) because he had ALL the turrets. At least, all the ones he could power. We had to hand it to him, the AI couldn't get through at all. But with all those turrets he couldn't power much of a tachyon (anti-cloaking) grid. So my cousin, he rips off his guns and installs a bunch of super-cloaking modules, then grabs all the cloaking AI ships he can find (and a few strays from the human fleet too). After a while, he sends a bunch of other ships to clog the human chokepoint, and then heads in with his cloakers. He lost some to detection, but made it through to the next wormhole and snuck into the player's backfield.

Eventually the guy figured out what was going on and set up a big tachyon field on the planet where he was hiding his Ark. And then he turned on the tachyons. And there they were, the Eyebots. From wormhole to wormhole, the entire gravwell was filled with Eyebots. I think he just turned the tachyons back off and shut his eyes.

Oh man, we still laugh about that one. Last year we sent the guy a postcard with a bunch of Eyebots on it.

Then there was this game against the guy who really knew blitzkrieg. He wasn't all that well defended, but he sunk a ton of science into a huge fleet, and the way things were going it didn't look like the game was going to last long enough for the AI to capitalize on that. So my cousin grabs a bunch of ships off some backwater AI planets, and waits for the human fleet to attack again and get entangled in the special forces. Then he melts his ships down into metal, crashes the battle, plants a bunch of grav turrets along the human path of retreat, and proceeds to vacuum up most of the human fleet (and the special forces, too).

He then dumped his appropriated fleets into human territory, and that probably would have been the game. But I happened to fly through and eat it all. The poor human player didn't know what to think.

And then there was this game where I thought he was stumped. The player had this huge defense-in-depth thing going and it didn't matter if you steamrolled a few planets, you still weren't getting through to anything important. He coordinated with CPAs, he planted threat-producing factories on the unclaimed planets left behind, he tried different ship mixes, etc. He even tried the cloaking thing again but one of the defense layers had enough tachyons to light him up like a Christmas tree.

So he gathers a whole ton of ships (the special forces fortresses were pretty empty at the end, I'll just say) and waits for the next big CPA. With some encouragement, it punched several layers deep. Then, while the human was still cleaning up the attack at the backstop layer, my cousin melts down a huge pile of ships into a MkII nuclear bomb, and sails straight into that main defensive planet.

He didn't even wait to be fired upon, he just pushed the button. That planet, all its immediate neighbors, and all their resources and defenders, were wiped out in a moment.

He might have been able to fly away from a MkII detonation, too, but point-blank was too much. It took him a long time to re-form. But the next CPA found a huge, unrepairable gap in the human defenses.

And then there was this time...

(several hours later)

... You don't look dissuaded. I keep forgetting that you like absurdly chaotic ways of dying in a galactic fire. Oh well, gotta go then. People to see, places to eat.

So long, and thanks for all the ships.

Nuts and Bolts

Keith here (again). So, what does it all mean?

Short story: in the pre-game setup you check the box named Nemesis and in-game there'll be this sort of small-moon thing that prowls around the galaxy rallying AI ships against you, ambushing your attack fleets, countering your stonewall tactics, picking off your planets, and looking for an opening to end you.

Longer story:

  • The Nemesis will be a completely independent, self-guided, and somewhat self-aware entity that wants you in its trophy case.
  • It will be defined in the engine, in external C# code, and in XML entries.
  • The game engine will contain the basic actions and mechanisms that the Nemesis will have access to. This will include logic for: custom galaxy-map-routing, modular armament, absorbing AI ships (and yours that it kills), redeploying ships, building stuff, and specific combat movement patterns.
  • External C# code modes control how the Nemesis uses those actions and mechanisms.
  • XML defines groups of those modes, each providing a distinct approach to what tactics it will use to turn you into a trophy.
  • When you start a game with a Nemesis, the game randomly picks a mode-group from those you've allowed.
  • Then periodically throughout the game, it may randomly pick a different mode for the Nemesis to use. Especially if it's been awhile since you made any progress towards being a trophy.

A few important implications of all that:

  • You can mod in your own Nemesis modes and mode-groups.
  • You can suppress Nemesis modes you personally don't want to deal with.
  • You can put more than one Nemesis unit in a game, either with the same mode-groups or different ones.

Sounds Like I Need A Bigger Gun

Oh, sure, it can be hurt, but you would need massive firepower to actually take it down.

One reason you won't die immediately is that the Nemesis has played lots of RPGs and knows that humanity can always be expected to have at least one really nasty card up its sleeve. So even though it could take you right at the beginning of the game, it doesn't want to risk dying in some harebrained commander's idea of a farewell nuke. Not that a nuke would normally do enough damage for that, incidentally.

I'm sure some of you will figure out how to kill it, especially with Spire help. But you'll have to work for it. And finding a big enough wall to mount the head on will be its own challenge.

... And it eventually re-forms anyway. Still, a couple hours Nemesis-free might be enough.

The Future

So, what's the next stretch goal after this? We've considered a number of options, but one stands out to us both in awesomeness and feasibility.

Giant cannons that can fire across the galaxy map.

Yep, if we reach $97,500 (so $7,500 for this individual goal) we'll bring the cross-planet weapon idea back. We're still working on the update to the stretch goal graphic but the basic concept is to have a few massive derelicts in each game that, once repaired, can be used to "shell" any system in the galactic neighborhood with various payloads.

And no, the Nemesis would never think of reprogramming those cannons against you. What makes you think that?

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Up Next

Our plan is to post part 3 of the AI series Wednesday, and the next combat video Friday.

Until then, keep an eye on the sky and be sure to report any moons you don't recognize!


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    1. Missing avatar

      BarclayII on

      Let me get this clear: the Nemesis got himself blown up by his own Mk-II nuke?

    2. Chris Park/Arcen Games 2-time creator on

      The other-faction code primarily comes from the TLF code, funnily enough.

    3. Missing avatar

      Curiouser and Curiouser on

      Oh, that's great. I also really like the notion of being able to have nemeses fighting eachother, or the AI specifically. I think it would be really cool to have a game style where the AI was having a civil war, and you might get caught in the crossfire.

    4. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      A lot of the other-faction support is already done, actually.

    5. Missing avatar

      Curiouser and Curiouser on

      Is the nemesis code going to be important for adding in other faction support (like how Spire added in modular ships)? If so then you should absolutely use that as a selling point for the goal.

    6. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      @James: one of my secret motives for making the sequel is building in full other-faction support so we can bring the Dark Spire back in full galaxy-burning glory.

      Adding in a counter-Nemesis... hahaha... One does not simply play that game.

    7. Missing avatar

      James on

      Now I'm imagining Dark Spire set to 11 and able to destroy command stations, a 10 scorched earth AI, and a Nemesis/ Nemeses modded to hunt Dark Spire.

      The galaxy would burn. But it would be amazing to watch.

    8. Missing avatar



      EVIL, yet amazingly compelling.

    9. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      > "Clearly we need those cross planet weapons so we can aim 50 Orbital Mass Drivers at this thing."

      That sounds acutely uncomfortable.

    10. WolfWhiteFire on

      Though how would the cross planet weapons work, just shoot at random and hope to hit something? Or do we need to have vision for them to work, or for them to work effectively?

    11. WolfWhiteFire on

      Or so it can aim 50 orbital mass drivers at us.

    12. Tridus on

      Clearly we need those cross planet weapons so we can aim 50 Orbital Mass Drivers at this thing.

    13. Chris Park/Arcen Games 2-time creator on

      Is it a space station? ;)

    14. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      That's no typo ;)

    15. Chris Park/Arcen Games 2-time creator on

      Awesome writeup. :)

      "and the Devourer accidentally the whole attack."

      Somehow that typo actually makes it more epic-sounding. Accidentally all your base?

    16. WolfWhiteFire on

      Now that I think about it, if the Devourer Golem and Nemesis are cousins, I would hate to meet their parent's parents.

    17. Keith LaMothe Collaborator on

      > "So if it will just do whatever it can to kill you, can it take control of it's cousin the Devourer Golem and just send it to pesker you and you alone?"

      It has no direct interaction with the Devourer either way. They ignore each other, aside from friendly insults. Hence the possibility of the Nemesis throwing something at you, and the Devourer accidentally the whole attack.

      > "Also will the devourer golem make it into AI War 2?"

      Yes, it's in the design:

    18. WolfWhiteFire on

      So if it will just do whatever it can to kill you, can it take control of it's cousin the Devourer Golem and just send it to pesker you and you alone? Or is it unwilling to do that to it's cousin and will just do other things to try to kill you. Also will the devourer golem make it into AI War 2? I never used it in AI War Classic, don't play classic much anymore, and want to try it now after reading this update.