Author Topic: The Final AI War Expansion  (Read 15870 times)

Offline Wingflier

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The Final AI War Expansion
« on: November 05, 2015, 09:39:30 AM »
While I recognize that this may be far off (I mean really, really far off), I think it's good to bring it up now in considering the future.

Perhaps at some point Arcen will start using a new engine and an AI War 2 will come out, which means that the final expansion of the first game could potentially only be a few years away.

Regardless, the reason I bring up this thread is that I think there's an important feature that AI War lacks, and that could improve the quality of the game dramatically for the community, and that is the ability for modding.

Now it's quite clear that the developers have been hesitant to add this, because they feel it will divide the community with so many different mods being created for the game, and would rather design/balance things themselves based on community feedback. However, Arcen is a busy company, and after many years and 6 expansions, AI War is a HUGE game. Even if, with limited manpower, they were devoting all their time to it, it could still take years to address many of the design and balance issues that have arisen over the course of so many expansions and MASSIVE design shifts.

Which is why I recommend that the ability to mod the game be added to the final expansion, since after that, it will become the player's game anyway. Sure, it may be somewhere down the road (how far, it's impossible to tell). But I thought it would be nice to begin discussing it now, so we can think about the implications of it.

Personally I think AI War is one of the most mod-friendly RTS games of all time. Just changing a few numbers on a spreadsheet, you could alter the entire game experience. Also, AI War lends itself to so many different personality types and playstyles that the ideas and variations on the game are practically endless. I think that if we allowed modding, we would see an explosion of awesome mods and redesigns that would surprise everybody. Don't forget about all the cool new ships and weapons that would certainly make it into the game as well ;p

Anyway, just keep it in mind.
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Offline Aklyon

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2015, 09:51:56 AM »
The question I'd have would be if anyone besides Keith actually knew what was going on in it outside of logging by the time that happened. :)

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2015, 10:48:14 AM »
Ilostit. I mean, a user-friendly version of Ilostit. Add it the ability to write scripts with Ilostit-spawn and other cheats commands (+/-X AIP/Knowledge/etc) in them (some sort of lua binding for cheats commands) and some triggers (death-trigger, first-scout-trigger, etc) that invoke these lua-ilostit-spawn triggers. And of course the ability to add (and change) ships' definition by text editing.

- Better commands
- Scripts
- Ships' definition

Only this and AI War would have a very good mod support.
At least a mod support where we can make our own expansions. And I have already tons of ideas I would be able to realize with only this.

Now we need Chris/Keith to say how easy difficult is this to code.
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
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Offline Histidine

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2015, 08:14:03 AM »
+1
Now it's quite clear that the developers have been hesitant to add this, because they feel it will divide the community with so many different mods being created for the game, and would rather design/balance things themselves based on community feedback. However, Arcen is a busy company, and after many years and 6 expansions, AI War is a HUGE game. Even if, with limited manpower, they were devoting all their time to it, it could still take years to address many of the design and balance issues that have arisen over the course of so many expansions and MASSIVE design shifts.
Indeed. And further, Arcen has too many games to juggle now to be able to devote anything resembling the lavish attention to any one game that they once did (see AI War right now, for instance). So, leverage a different Arcen asset (our pretty cool community here) and crowdsource it!

Offline x4000

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2015, 09:21:24 AM »
Just for the sake of argument, how would you feel if:

1. We released a new version of the game called AI War Reborn or similar, charging probably $20 for it.
2. We drastically upgraded the underlying engine, had copious mod support from the ground up in that, did new art, and so on.
3. We built as many of the features from all the AI War expansions as possible into that, although minus things that nobody really likes anyway (Defender mode).
4. We started with something that is really simplistic but with mod support, and then during an alpha where you guys are involved, built things back up so that you're not left out of the process until the last second.
5. We then leave the original AI War alone, period, and AI War Reborn becomes the new AI War experience that any expansions go to, and that players can focus any modding efforts on, etc.

The reasons for this are numerous:
1. Doing the sort of modding support that would be useful at all would require pretty much a complete rewrite of the game engine to do, to be honest.
2. We now have experience with exactly that sort of thing in some of our more recent work -- you would not BELIEVE how mod-friendly Starward Rogue is, for instance.
3. We've had 4+ years of engine improvements since the original AI War, and people are going to be seriously frustrated if they try to work on the older version of the engine (I sure would be), so the upgrade to a newer engine would be good all around.
4. We'd be able to ease some of the performance woes that people are likely to introduce in mods by using some more multithreading, probably.
5. We could also upgrade the network library.
6. And so on.

Basically I like what you're talking about, but what you're talking about is a completely different game from the one that exists now.  I'm not saying that the above will happen for sure, but it is something we've talked about internally.  I'm curious to take your temperature on that since you guys brought it up.
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Offline Wingflier

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2015, 09:55:34 AM »
Let me put it to you this way Chris, if you did something like that, not only would I buy at least 5 copies, I would devote an insane amount of time promoting it however and wherever possible in an attempt to make it the most successful Arcen game ever.

I'd make a fan group on Steam, a Facebook fan page, weekly reddit posts, heck I'd probably build an entire website because that sounds completely AWESOME.
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Offline chemical_art

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2015, 10:17:23 AM »
Just for the sake of argument, how would you feel if:

1. We released a new version of the game called AI War Reborn or similar, charging probably $20 for it.
2. We drastically upgraded the underlying engine, had copious mod support from the ground up in that, did new art, and so on.
3. We built as many of the features from all the AI War expansions as possible into that, although minus things that nobody really likes anyway (Defender mode).
4. We started with something that is really simplistic but with mod support, and then during an alpha where you guys are involved, built things back up so that you're not left out of the process until the last second.
5. We then leave the original AI War alone, period, and AI War Reborn becomes the new AI War experience that any expansions go to, and that players can focus any modding efforts on, etc.

The reasons for this are numerous:
1. Doing the sort of modding support that would be useful at all would require pretty much a complete rewrite of the game engine to do, to be honest.
2. We now have experience with exactly that sort of thing in some of our more recent work -- you would not BELIEVE how mod-friendly Starward Rogue is, for instance.
3. We've had 4+ years of engine improvements since the original AI War, and people are going to be seriously frustrated if they try to work on the older version of the engine (I sure would be), so the upgrade to a newer engine would be good all around.
4. We'd be able to ease some of the performance woes that people are likely to introduce in mods by using some more multithreading, probably.
5. We could also upgrade the network library.
6. And so on.

Basically I like what you're talking about, but what you're talking about is a completely different game from the one that exists now.  I'm not saying that the above will happen for sure, but it is something we've talked about internally.  I'm curious to take your temperature on that since you guys brought it up.

YES YES YES YES YES!
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Offline x4000

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2015, 10:19:56 AM »
Well then. :)

It definitely is the sort of thing we want to do in theory, because I think that we've really hit the limit of what we can do in terms of opening up the current game to players.  Even if we just open-sourced it, the current code would be something that people would break absolutely constantly.  And one mod would be incompatible with every other mod unless players worked really carefully with one another.  Etc.

With Starward Rogue we've solved both of those problems, and taking that knowledge back to AI War once we have continued perfecting it, and redoing the interface and various other things that really could use it on AI War (plus having a consistent art style that is also more modern, etc) would be really exciting to me.  Plus the ability for players to make their own tutorials would be a godsend in terms of making this accessible to new players.  Not to mention "easy mode" mods or similar for new players.
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Offline chemical_art

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2015, 10:28:34 AM »
I think it would be a worthy successor to AI War. Judging from what you have told us over time AI War still is among your longest lasting titles. Adding mods would further extend it's lifetime because there would be a stream of new content. The idea that I can tweak it to my personal liking sounds great as well.
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Offline Pumpkin

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2015, 10:38:29 AM »
Of course I'm more than happy with this perspective.

I just want to make some points clear.
1) Will the gameplay remain the same?
2) Will you accept to "shatter the game experience"?

Details.

1) Will the gameplay remain the same? What will change in term of details? For instance, will all the ships' stats will stay put or rebalanced in the process? Will the minor factions remains the same? Will we have all the traditional goodies (for instances: GravDrill, BHMachine, DGLair, Alarm, etc etc) or will be some new and some trashed in the process? I mean: would it be an engine-only rewrite, or an engine-gameplay rewrite?

2) You said back in the days that not providing mod support for AI War was a way to keep the game as a one. I really value that. So what will happen to the "base game"? Will you have a steam-like workshop? Will you have official mods and sometimes integrate fan-made mods provided they are balanced and finely integrated into the "official mods"?

Anyway, if this sees light one day, I will fiercely compete for the title of greatest AI War moder!!! >D
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
Pumpkin>> Do I need another cure about paranoia on top of overexcitement?
Mal>> We play AI War, enthusiasm and paranoia are both required!

Offline NickAragua

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2015, 10:51:26 AM »
With Starward Rogue we've solved both of those problems, and taking that knowledge back to AI War once we have continued perfecting it, and redoing the interface and various other things that really could use it on AI War (plus having a consistent art style that is also more modern, etc) would be really exciting to me.  Plus the ability for players to make their own tutorials would be a godsend in terms of making this accessible to new players.  Not to mention "easy mode" mods or similar for new players.

Uh, yes please. I would also vote for improved networking technology. I mean, ok, it's been years since I played this coop, but still.

Also, don't listen to all those guys who say the game is too easy. It's fine to have a "maximum ultra difficulty with kick to the nut sack" as an option, but most people who play AI War aren't that good at it.

Offline x4000

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2015, 10:54:11 AM »
AI War still makes up almost half our revenue yearly, yeah, so it's a big deal to us.

In terms of the questions:

1. Would the gameplay remain the same?  Overall the answer to that is... probably yes, for the most part.  Some of it would feel different most likely simply because we'd be modernizing so many aspects of things.  Other pieces we might cut from the game because we simply don't think they add value to most people, and we might rebalance stats some as well.  But there would be nothing stopping people from modding those right back in or back to the way they used to be.

2. Regarding fragmentation.  In general, the idea is that if people are doing a lot of modding and generally agreeing that some set of stats is superior to the official set of values, then we'd take those into the main game as the new defaults.  This would let players drive a lot of that, though, and experiment in various forks.  For those who are just trying to perfect the balance, they can do so and then we can roll out those perfections as part of the main game like any other update.  The difference being that people can do that on their own in forks that are tested with other players as much as they want.  When it comes to things that are more total conversions or adding ships or whatever, then of course those can exist in separate spheres that are unrelated to the official set of stuff, and that's perfectly fine.

3. I don't know about Steam Workshop support, as I've never looked into it much.  I suspect we'll know more after Starward Rogue.

4. I want to point out that nothing I say at this point should be taken as written in stone or any sort of promise. ;)  These are speculations and design musings designed at this point to see what you react most positively to, and what the desires are, so that we can use that as a guide for what we actually do if we take on this project.  Which I'd like to at some point, but it just depends on if it's feasible.

5. In terms of difficulty, I'm not concerned about the game being too easy, heh.  We do like diff 10/10 to be as impossible as possible, but at the same time I'd rather improve the accessibility of the default experience rather than making it harder.  Being able to have some mod-based "modes" (beginner mode, intermediate mode, advanced mode) that do things like change around the interface and even some of the game rules and available features might be nice.  Whether or not that's really feasible remains to be seen, but theoretically I think so.
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Offline Toranth

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2015, 11:21:05 AM »
Just for the sake of argument, how would you feel if:

1. We released a new version of the game called AI War Reborn or similar, charging probably $20 for it.
2. We drastically upgraded the underlying engine, had copious mod support from the ground up in that, did new art, and so on.
3. We built as many of the features from all the AI War expansions as possible into that, although minus things that nobody really likes anyway (Defender mode).
4. We started with something that is really simplistic but with mod support, and then during an alpha where you guys are involved, built things back up so that you're not left out of the process until the last second.
5. We then leave the original AI War alone, period, and AI War Reborn becomes the new AI War experience that any expansions go to, and that players can focus any modding efforts on, etc.




More seriously, I would love to get my hands on a version of AI War that had nothing more than the engine improvements we've seen in the other games.  Modding would be a huge bonus on top of that.
I'd also love to be able to get my hands on some of the AI and unit code... a Zombie Master AI, a Harassment AI, not to mention the Pancake Golem...

Fragmentation isn't a big concern of mine.  Partly because I play single-player almost exclusively, but also because even the multiplayer is usually only between people that know each other (and can easily coordinate mods).  If there was an easy mod-manager built in, for enabling/disabling and tracking mods (rather than manually overwriting files and such), it'd be really easy to play with.
Even with something like ToME, which has a million and one mods out there, the mod display/tracking makes it fairly easy to compare games and playstyles.


My only real concern would be that, if there was an active mod community, we'd lose some support from you and Keith, as you move on to other games, and miss all the creative input that we get now.

Offline Captain Jack

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2015, 01:18:30 PM »
Just for the sake of argument, how would you feel if:

1. We released a new version of the game called AI War Reborn or similar, charging probably $20 for it.
2. We drastically upgraded the underlying engine, had copious mod support from the ground up in that, did new art, and so on.
3. We built as many of the features from all the AI War expansions as possible into that, although minus things that nobody really likes anyway (Defender mode).
4. We started with something that is really simplistic but with mod support, and then during an alpha where you guys are involved, built things back up so that you're not left out of the process until the last second.
5. We then leave the original AI War alone, period, and AI War Reborn becomes the new AI War experience that any expansions go to, and that players can focus any modding efforts on, etc.

The reasons for this are numerous:
1. Doing the sort of modding support that would be useful at all would require pretty much a complete rewrite of the game engine to do, to be honest.
2. We now have experience with exactly that sort of thing in some of our more recent work -- you would not BELIEVE how mod-friendly Starward Rogue is, for instance.
3. We've had 4+ years of engine improvements since the original AI War, and people are going to be seriously frustrated if they try to work on the older version of the engine (I sure would be), so the upgrade to a newer engine would be good all around.
4. We'd be able to ease some of the performance woes that people are likely to introduce in mods by using some more multithreading, probably.
5. We could also upgrade the network library.
6. And so on.

Basically I like what you're talking about, but what you're talking about is a completely different game from the one that exists now.  I'm not saying that the above will happen for sure, but it is something we've talked about internally.  I'm curious to take your temperature on that since you guys brought it up.
Oh, so you're going to go ahead with the remake/sequel after all? Nice! Are we going to think of awful subtitles to give it? Because I think "Recompiled" sounds more technical than "Reborn" and would give a certain percentage of programmers a stroke.

Offline Castruccio

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Re: The Final AI War Expansion
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2015, 02:53:32 PM »
Why not call it AI War II instead of AI War Reborn?  It would get more attention as a sequel than a remake.  Remakes make people assume it is just a "complete" package with some HD graphics.  I think you'd get more press mentions if you called it a full fledged sequel.