"Early Access" Backers now have Steam Keys!
As of two days ago, actually. On the day of, the emails were sent out and I posted an update on the forums and in our comment chain here.
Chris here, by the way. :)
At any rate, I didn't have time to do a full post on that day, and there were some zero-day bugs with version 0.300 that led to us spending yesterday working on 0.301 and getting that out the door before I made this update. I have to confess, some of what I was working on with 0.301 were also visual updates, because I wanted to show off the new HDR visual stack.
So What's Up Lately?
Well, we've been doing a whole lot of updates to the game -- enough that we're now onto our second wiki release notes page. Versions 0.300 and 0.301 mark a lot of really huge technical, performance, and visual jumps forward.
That said, we're still not at the point of our original goal for starting actual Early Access on Steam, and we're at least a month or so out from that. As noted last time, we're giving out the keys to the EA-level backers from kickstarter and backerkit immediately, anyhow.
Gosh there's so much going on it gets hard to sum up. Those links have a lot of the really detailed notes if you want that kind of detail.
I just got my key. What's the state of the game?
Aha! A much easier question to answer, although you may be less enthusiastic at this one. The TLDR is that if you're looking to hop in and immediately play a complete game that needs polish, you're going to be unfortunately disappointed -- we're still in an extension of the alpha phase for the next month or so, and we'd love your help in giving feedback to help us get to the state described.
- The sidebar on the left side of the screen, which should show your ship counts and so forth, is removed at the moment as we update it.
- The interface in general is horrible, and you need to go into the PlayerData folder and edit your settings file manually if you want to make settings changes.
- In very large battles, there are still some performance bottlenecks that we intend to address. All on the visuals/fluff side, not the core simulation, thankfully. We've gotten most of the heavy-hitters thus far, though.
- Various ships are implemented but don't have real graphics, so they just show a little "rock" instead where the ship graphic would be. You can still see the ship icon and whatnot just fine.
- All ship shot types use the same graphics right now.
- No sound effects yet, and only a couple of music tracks.
- Particle effects are also limited.
- Ships currently just sit there in their squads, rather than flying around within their squads.
- Not quite all of the baseline ships are implemented off our pre-Early-Access list, but we're pretty close!
- Various bugs on mantis: https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view_all_bug_page.php
- Balance needs a lot of attention, with your help.
- There's no tutorial yet, and there's basically not much in the way of a lobby beyond map types and seed. You can't choose your player color yet, even. (Compared to the actual gameplay mechanics, we felt like these were ancillary things, but they are coming up in importance sooner than later.)
What Is The Purpose Of This Phase?
Short Answer: To make the game fun, which it is not yet. Please don't fret on that!
Long Answer: There's still a lot to do on the game obviously, as stated in the last blog post. But there's a lot of good stuff here to tinker with now, and we're really looking forward to having more people bashing on it. It's not a "fun, balanced game that just needs some polish" yet, but it will be really useful for us to have more people finding the pain points both in the interface (which is currently atrocious) and the actual gameplay flow (which, from a macro standpoint, is still pretty immature).
The underlying technology and components for making a fun game are here, and that'd a very critical step towards it being a fun and balanced game, but that's not where we are just yet. In a lot of respects we kind of reordered things: the underlying tech is somewhat more advanced and more polished than we had anticipated at this point, and that is pretty important because it gives us a better idea of what we CAN do in the engine. It gives us a better bounding-box for setting up things so that we can build an interface around what is possible, and have the scale of battles reflect what is possible performance-wise, and so forth. On that front, I'm super happy with where we are.
But yeah, the next step is to finish implementing the last of the "before early access" ships, and then to actually make a GUI that isn't eye-gouging as well as a game flow that doesn't have any obvious deficiencies. Right now there are some notable concerns about parts of the game flow regarding how you don't really need to keep territory as much as in the first game, and certain other bits of the feel from a strategic standpoint are "off." Some of that is just because xyz AI feature maybe isn't in place yet, but other pieces are more about the design of certain ships or mechanics. These are things we want to iron out before we go full-Early-Access, and we need the help of folks like you to do so. We're trying to streamline certain aspects of the first game, but we don't want to do that at the expense of what made the original game cool.
The engine for this one is so flexible that we could just recreate most of what the first game was if we felt like it, but we'd really rather not for a variety of reasons that should be apparent to anyone who tried to get into the first game and bounced off it, or who played the first game for a huge number of hours but wanted certain fundamental improvements. Now that all the basic frameworks are getting in place here, we're at a point where we can start thinking about those things.
New Tutorial: Creating Nebula Backgrounds for AI War 2
A how-to guide for modders or other players who want to create nebula backgrounds for either their own use, or to send in for official inclusion in the game. This requires version 0.302 or greater of the game.
Keith and I are both plugging away at usability issues, as is Blue when it comes to redesigning the interface. There are those performance issues that we're pursuing as well, and various other bug reports we're fixing up.
Basically the game isn't all that fun right now because you can't really work the controls all that well, and we want to get the interface out of your way. Thus far that has been serviceable-at-best simply so that we could get the underlying mechanics and gameplay and so on working.
Now most of the nuts and bolts are there, and a lot of the visual fluff (though not remotely all of it), and so it's time to buckle down on making it a fun game that is fluid to pick up.
By the way -- this might seem to be a backwards way to approach things, but given that this is based on another game that already was fun, but which had specific technical and aesthetic concerns we wanted to overcome, we started with the less-certain stuff. If this was a brand new concept for a game, no way would we have been doing things in this order! Always start with the parts you're least certain about, if you can.
When can I just sit down and play it for fun?
Not the bughunting-type fun? We'll let you know. We won't be going into Steam/Humble early access until it meets that criteria, so it shouldn't be too much longer. You can bet you'll hear about it from us when we hit that point, though.