AI War 2 is a GO! Thank you! Here's what happens next.
Chris here! On behalf of Keith and the rest of us: you folks seriously rock. We're grateful for all the support you've shown us and this project, which has really brightened the end of a hard year.
Now for some housekeeping and general timeline information. This is a long post broken into sections, so feel free to skip around if you don't care about the minutiae of the release schedule. Some bits are more relevant for some backers than others.
What Happens Next?
Right Now: Two Quiet Weeks
First, there's a two-week period where kickstarter collects funds and makes sure that any failed pledges get resolved if they can be. This lasts until the very start of January, at which time they'll release funds to us.
This actually works out really well, because it's right over the Christmas and New Years holiday weeks. We'd normally be quiet during that period anyhow, spending time with our friends and families, and I imagine a fair number of you will be doing the same.
During this time we'll mostly be interacting with you either in the comments section here, or on our forums for the game -- which we encourage you to join! Updates-wise it will be pretty quiet, but we'll still be around and you can talk to us as easily as ever.
January 2017: BackerKit Surveys
BackerKit is basically a symbiotic logistics platform that works with Kickstarter to make Keith's and my lives way easier. It does all the organization that we'd otherwise have to do in spreadsheets, and will save us literally days (if not weeks) of time in getting keys and other backer rewards to you.
For a lot of the higher pledge tiers there are extra things that we need to ask you, because there was something creative that you get to design. So there will be questions about those bits when relevant, and we'll get the process started with each of those.
These surveys can't go out until the funds close from kickstarter, since we won't be 100% certain who has a failed pledge until then. But I'm working on the survey design this week (and started it last week).
I'll give you a heads up prior to these going out so that you know to expect them, but they should arrive in the first or second week of January.
Boring but important details:
- You will not need to create a BackerKit account to answer your survey.
- The invitation email will contain a link to your personal survey. It is important to submit your responses as quickly as you reasonably can since we need this information to process your rewards.
- If you need to change your survey responses, or add or remove add-ons, you can click on the link in your survey email again or request your survey link under "Lost your survey?" on our BackerKit project page. (This page will only start working after we send the surveys out.)
- You can just message/email us and give us your information... but answering your survey will help us get your rewards out to you quicker and let us spend more time making the game (hint, hint).
- If you used Facebook to log into your Kickstarter account, the BackerKit survey link will be sent to the email you used for your Facebook account. If you have another email address that you'd prefer to use, please message us.
February 2017: Alpha Keys Get Sent Out
We don't have exact dates on this set up yet, but basically if you backed at a tier that gets you alpha access (or add that as an add-on on backerkit later), then you'll be getting a Steam key for the game during February.
That key will remain live permanently, but the game itself won't be purchase-able on the storefront at that point.
Leading Up To Late May 2017: Alpha Period
During this alpha period the game is in no way feature complete, it will have all sorts of bugs and in-progress bits, and so forth.
- Some folks backed at an alpha level just to give us more financial support, and probably don't intend to actually play during the alpha period. That's fine! Your key won't expire if you hang onto it, or you can go ahead and register the key with Steam and not play it until Early Access or later.
- For a lot of the others who backed at this level, we know you're looking to get in "earlier than early" to start giving us feedback things as they are going through their embryonic stages and taking form. So that process starts in February, essentially. It's an exceedingly incomplete product during this time, but you can help us refine individual pieces with your feedback, and our design document lays out exactly where we're headed.
During this period we'll have updates to the Steam version of the game that range from a few times of day at one extreme to once a week on the other extreme. Most of the time it's every few days, as you know if you've followed any of our past titles in similar time periods.
May 2017: Early Access Keys Go Out
At this point, the core of the game is feature-complete. Every last feature from stretch goals in particular won't be in at this time, but the game is playable from end-to-end and hopefully has a lot of things polished up from the alpha backers' commentary. I expect lots of open tickets still in our bug tracker at that point, though, and that's fine.
This is the time that the game will also appear for public sale on Steam and Humble, for $30 at that time. So we should be getting a much wider array of feedback from then on.
Leading Up To October 2017: Early Access (Beta) Period
Then it's a matter of finishing the last features, having a ton of polish work, lots of testing, and so on. A lot of the creative collaborative bits with other high-tier backers will happen during this time period.
October 2017: 1.0 Launch Keys Go Out!
The price for the game will drop to $20, and the game leaves Early Access at this time. This is also when the keys for all the launch backers go out.
If you like what you see during Early Access so much that you just can't wait until this point, then there should be a way for you to upgrade your pledge on BackerKit without you having to buy a whole second copy of the game or something. We'll take care of you!
November 2017 and onward: Post-1.0
What exactly happens here is hard to predict at this point, but we know we'll still be at it in some fashion.
Some of the highest-tier creative rewards will likely be fulfilled in this period, so that those folks can see the full initial game release as they choose what they want to add with their creative tier bit.
We'll also be into general post-release support, of course. And hopefully we'll be expanding this further with some post-1.0 stretch goals that we can still reach via BackerKit.
We may then look to further crowdfunding or DLC to start adding massive expansions to the game, or who knows. It's pretty early to say on that at this point, and we'll be consulting with players heavily on that. We want to do something that makes the most sense for everyone, and that people are happy with. Our focus right now is on 1.0, so we'll revisit this question late next year.
Who's Working On This, And When?
This is a recap of things that we stated in the main kickstarter page, the FAQ, the Risks and Challenges section, and in comments and updates in response to various backer questions. So hopefully you already know this, but it's worth reiterating here just so that there are no surprises down the line.
Keith LaMothe is the lead designer and lead programmer, and you're going to be hearing from him a whole lot more than me during this whole process. You're in super good hands with him, as you probably know by now if you've been reading his updates.
Chris Park (that's me). I'm acting as the producer on this one, and doing various front-end programming and graphical work. I will not be working on this project on a daily basis for nearly so long as Keith. That was never built into the funding, isn't needed, and won't be affecting anything on the timetable negatively. Keith is your man: you don't want or need two cooks in the kitchen.
For my own part, I'll be doing my AI War 2 work to support Keith, and then with the rest of my time I'll have to do something else. As strange as it may sound, I'm actually going to be working on VR titles supporting both the Rift and Vive. That's a whole other story, though -- but when you see that happening, please don't be surprised.
As stated repeatedly on this campaign, there will be no mixing of funds, no usage of AI War 2 funds for anything unrelated to it, and so on. We've done simultaneous projects at multiple points in our 7 year history as a company, and it's worked out really well for us. Any questions on this, we're always happy to answer them. Some other developers have done some seriously shady stuff in this area, and we want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
Daniette "Blue" Mann is our art director, and is doing most of the art for the game. Things like the special effects are not her, and I'm doing most of the animating this time (not that she can't do it, but the division works well), and I'm doing a few things like normal maps and the shader code and tuning and lighting and post-processing effects, etc.
But when it comes to ship and icon modeling, texture work, GUI art, and so on, that's all Blue. The actual GUI design itself is a tag-team effort between her, myself, and Keith. Balancing attractiveness, readability, organization, and functionality with each of us representing different aspects of that. And actually players representing a pretty fair stake in that, too, particularly during the alpha period.
She also won't be needed on AI War 2 nearly as long as Keith, but she will be involved on it for longer stretches than me. There's a lot of modeling and texturing to do! Some of the higher backer tier folks will be working with her at various points to do custom Ark variants and things like that, too.
Pablo Vega returns as composer thanks to our first stretch goal being hit, and his wife Hunter is already featured in the vocals of at least one track (that one was originally for Stars Beyond Reach). His involvement is as a contractor for a very specific set of work, and so he'll be around to do that work and then will focus on other things.
Dave "Dio" Sperandio has been doing the mastering for a lot of our music during the last year or so, and boy does he bring out the best in Pablo's music. He'll be involved in the briefest way of all of us, but will basically crank up the quality of Pablo's music to 11. He does the same for Pentatonix and Lindsey Sterling, so he's, uh... quite good. ;)
Erik Johnson handles PR, marketing, press, and a lot of general business development work for Arcen, and he's going to be doing the same here (and already has been). He's consistently invaluable, and frees up a lot of time for Keith and I as well as opening doors and increasing visibility in general.
His amount of day to day involvement fluctuates heavily based on what is going on with the project at the time. For the next while he gets a breather, after a hard couple of months of kickstarter work. :)
"Cinth" has worked with us as a contractor on a variety of projects, most notably Starward Rogue and In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor. He has a variety of talents ranging from balance work and unit design to "technical art" skills such as taking models from Blue and making sure that they have the lowest possible poly counts (Maya does strange things sometimes that he's then able to straighten out with tools in Unity or by hand).
A lot of the model optimization is going to fall to him, which saves Blue and I a ton of time. We'll still be using LODs and all that jazz, but making sure that all of it is as efficient as possible is one of the things he's able to focus on. And then beyond that he's able to save Keith a fair bit of time with help on numbers-crunching for balance work, and organizing/collating feedback on that sort of thing from forum-folk. He does the odd bit of coding now and then, too.
Ben Mcauley is the main voice actor that we'll be working with, although we may expand the roster some. I may do a bit myself, we'll see -- I've had some success with that in the past with voice modifiers on to be an evil presence. Ben can be heard throughout In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor as a variety of robots, and he's also the voiceover in the original kickstarter's trailer. (Reminder: that trailer talks about things from the first kickstarter, NOT this one -- things like solar systems, tech upgrades, etc, are not here... yet!)
When Can You Expect To See Progress Updates?
During these next two weeks it will probably be pretty quiet, but we're happy to answer questions on the forums or in the comments.
After we hit January and are past the holiday period, we'll keep doing updates that explain some features and what we are up to. Not the epic written updates that Keith was doing during the campaign (those took a lot of time for him to write!), but we'll do random showcases of things in video and written form.
With a few exceptions to that. :) Keith is planning to continue the AI series, maybe one post every two weeks, until he's covered everything from the overview post.
After we hit alpha, then we'll be posting incredi-detailed release notes with every build. Those get overwhelming fast if you're not following along with each one, so we'll be posting roundup summaries every couple of weeks or whatever people most prefer. I'll pepper in some videos there, too.
There won't be any shortage of you being able to find out what is going on -- instead it really depends how far down that rabbit hole you want to go. ;)
Now Back To Work!
We've made some good progress on the game during this kickstarter, but overall our progress has been slow because of having so much kickstarter-related work to do. Now we actually get to go back to Making The Game, which is our favorite part. (It's kinda why we're here.)
Thank you again everybody SO much. It means a ton to all of us.