Author Topic: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter  (Read 6465 times)

Offline keith.lamothe

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(Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« on: November 11, 2016, 09:58:26 AM »
Rather than make an exhaustive document I've focused on the new stuff and the key details. On the other hand, I have tried to be comprehensively clear about what's in and not in.

So here's the link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15SQiart062NJRSockhQk9OLaoIj933vKkz59DvFhL90/

There's also an appendix detailing what's not coming over from AIW 1, and what's not coming in 1.0 but we want to bring over later:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/19dWF_HdhKoxugfByN_2G2FN3NifJrrrof9pf-d7acBE/


There's not yet info in these about stretch goal specifics, and that's intentional. Some stretch goals may get wrapped up into 1.0 but it should be able to stand alone.


Anyway, have a look, and please tell me what's wrong :)
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Offline Apathetic

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2016, 11:12:07 AM »
It looks like it should make for an interesting game. 

The only implementation detail level of thoughts I have are that playable races seems to be pushed out of 1.0, and something to do with hacking the AI to provide permanent scouting for a region of planets rather than need scouts there.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2016, 11:22:14 AM »
playable races seems to be pushed out of 1.0
Correct, that was a huge part of the budget that was evidently too large, so it was an obvious thing to defer.

Being able to play the spire (whether from the lobby or something less totally-different-game-to-balance) will probably be the first or second stretch goal, and if we hit that it would probably get rolled into 1.0 (which would put the 1.0 release date later than otherwise).


Quote
and something to do with hacking the AI to provide permanent scouting for a region of planets rather than need scouts there.
Yep, that's what is meant by:
Quote
Scout-picketing will need to change, obviously, as this would leave you with no way to maintain intel on AI planets. So the plan is to have structures you can hack (or possibly capture) that give you vision on all planets in that region.  It’s far kinder to your CPU, and easier for you to manage from a gameplay standpoint, too.
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Offline x4000

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2016, 11:37:28 AM »
We'll have to start getting the basics of the stretch goal designs (for the first couple) in place next week, but this is a great place to start in terms of hopefully getting everything across about the base game.

Incidentally Keith, my hope is to set the 1.0 deliverable date such that X number of stretch goals would be included in that date, and any beyond that are pushing that date back.  And any we fail to hit out of those aren't guaranteed to push the deliverable date sooner, but presumably would.  In terms of what we promise it would still be the more conservative date either way.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2016, 12:22:00 PM »
My only complaint is that this doesn't include a "What is AI War and why should I play it" paragraph at the top.  You've got a "why a sequel" which is great, but for someone who's never heard of the first one, that's going to be their first question.

"We're making a sequel to our 2009 hit title about massive space combat and cooperative asymmetric RTS play." etc. etc.

Then "Why a sequel?"

Under "What's Included?" you should create a short bullet list of the major points from the other document.  Pull out the "big one," i.e. if someone is worried it won't exist, but does, bullet it (e.g. map types).  If it's a significant change that is cut for an important reason, bullet it (e.g. network performance profiles because it's going to be optimized away).  Try to keep it to about 6 of each.
eg.
Quote
Keeping:
Multiple galaxy map layouts
A few more interesting AI plots (more post 1.0)
Most AI personality types (ones cut have had their mechanics cut)
A variety of AI Guardian ships
A variety of guard posts
A variety of Core Guard posts (the big scary ones on the AI homeworld)

Not Keeping:
Most minor factions (a few are with more post-1.0 or in an expansion)
Defender mode (no one played it)
Map Untangling (not needed with the returning map types)
Ability to disable ship categories (can bring it back if needed)
Unit cap scaling (moddable)
Network performance profiles (we're optimizing this, it shouldn't be needed)
Champions
You kind of did this already for the "what's in this KS vs. the other KS?" and it sums things up nicely for the more casual reader.

Lastly I'd move "tell me about motherships" to after "energy and fuel?" just because that section seems more like a "tell me about specific units" rather than "new mechanic? do tell" and I'd rather read about new mechanics before I read the nitty gritty about specific units.

Offline Lord Of Nothing

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2016, 12:29:32 PM »
My £0.02:

The hacking change is interesting- requiring the mothership. I like it, but a slight misgiving there is that it probably means that if the hack goes wrong, you're going to die, as opposed to having to figure out how to handle the fallout of it going wrong. I suspect a lot of people reload saves if that happens in the current game anyway, though.
Also, I notice it's called the ark in this section- I think I actually prefer that name...

With regard to the new armour mechanics and such, I'm slightly worried that this may be overusing percentage reductions, but I'll reserve judgement- the overlapping types certainly should create lots of potential for interesting interactions. Are those percentages planned to be the same across all units for simplicity, or different and the given numbers are examples?

I love the cloaking changes, since this sounds friendlier for defending players and less exploitable against the AI, while simultaneously making more room for interesting non-binary cloaking games!

Offline NichG

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2016, 12:41:01 PM »
I'm not sure if this is intended as the actual KS front page for the reboot, or if this is a meta-discussion about the content of that. The following are comments based on the assumption that it's the first rather than the second.

Thoughts on presentation aspects:

- Needs a 'What is AI War?' section first before 'Why make a sequel?'

- Derelicts sound awesome! I don't care what they are, it's just plain evocative. I want to hear about this new feature early on, and have it feel like its a plot point. The fantasy of 'we're weak and the AI is strong, but the people who came before us were strong too and we're reviving that strength as a core part of our way to win' is cool, and a distinct feel from (early) AIW1's more guerilla warfare theme. This is IMO a good thing.

- Lots of technical details, but much of it is under the hood (lidgren? How many backers will know what that is?). I think its okay to provide those technical details, but it's probably good to have that further down the page and not mixed in with where you're explaining 'these are the new features' for the first time. I think stuff like 'changeable controls' is okay level of detail, but maybe 'NAT punchthrough' is just on the other side of that line.
-- Since actually you say that much of this is already completed or at least researched out, I think you can instead make the point that the existing work is added value for KS support. Basically 'well, we've already spent $50k on doing all this stuff, so if you guys give us $50k more funding you're effectively getting a $100k game for it'. You could say it something like: 'oh, and by the way, since we can do things from scratch there are a huge set of technical improvements we can make - and have already done so in many cases!'. It makes it almost like a free stretch goal.
-- For stuff that amounts to a performance improvement, I think it would be good to include something about what that performance will enable gameplay-wise that was hard in AIW1. What's the cool thing the player will experience that they couldn't before, assuming that their computer runs AIW1 without problems?

- The explanation of new gameplay features, things like that at the end is great, exactly what you need. For me, this is the first stuff I'd want to read about following the broad 'What is AI War, bullet point list of features' intro section.
-- Nitpick, but in the Cloaking section, I had a bit of a mental hitch when you describe the problem with lurkers being CPU usage rather than, say, the annoyance to the player of having the micromanage clearing them out or some other player-focused reason for the game design shift. Think of it this way - if I'm not currently having speed problems with AI War (and, I'm not, actually), it sounds like maybe sacrificing gameplay for sake of unnecessary code optimization. I don't think this is the case, since you really are describing a number of gameplay motivated adjustments there, but you don't want to accidentally give that impression.

- You talk about a 'Hacker' and an 'Ark' without making it clear if they're equivalent things. Some left-over old terms?

Thoughts on content:

- Saying it again, I really like the explanation of new gameplay features and changes.

- Derelicts! Sorry, just had to say it.
-- The Admirals thing also sounds cool - I can imagine a different feel of playing that, where rather than building a sort of static set of worlds I've seized, the worlds I've seized create lanes in which I can move more freely but the things I grab from them are sort of a small set of points of action I can (or have to) use to cover a space which is growing faster than I'm gaining things to station in it. It gives more of a feeling that where you place things in response to the current situation will matter a lot more and be more dynamic/less frozen in.

- In defense/counter section, I really like that you point out intentionally enforcing certain correlations in the design space, with rare/expensive exceptions. It's a big part of adding character and a feeling of uniqueness to things, and a lot of games miss that point and just make every combination possible in some form or other with the result that everything feels generic.

- One point with Power/Fuel is, in AIW1, you could have a cascade failure of your defenses when the AI took out some energy collector you needed to power the shields on a wormhole mouth, etc, etc. It seems like that's going away. Upside is, rebuilding boonies stations just to make sure your Energy budget was okay was a bit tedious, especially if the AI would plink them with tiny amounts of Threat, so that's one tedious thing you don't have to do as much of anymore. Downside is, it made for a strategic incentive to have defenses outside of a sequence of bottleneck worlds you know the AI has to pass through. Not sure what I think or to what degree this kind of detail needs to be discussed on the KS, but it came to mind so I'm mentioning it.

Offline kasnavada

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2016, 01:41:27 PM »
Remarks:
Hu, you need to know the first game to understand the doc... ok fine on the forum here, but on KS, not much. Or an explanation of the first game's needed somewhere.

Paragraph: "And the new stuff from the first Kickstarter?"
Separating technical aspect from "new or modified" game rules will make that paragraph much clearer IMO.


The "Tell me more about Arks." up to "Where did my Cloaking go?" and similar gameplay feature advertized... ok. showing the gameplay's nice but why those among all the rest ? Ain't clear to me. I think those need to be sub-chapters in a "major mechanic changes from AI War I" chapter. Here it's confusing because, even if I do have the history, I've no clue whatsoever why those deserve a mention.


2nd doc:

That's an unit list. It's not that I'm against a unit list, but... I think this requires a "retained mechanics" list of sorts. If only for you guys to actually know when to stop coding stuff and exceptions.


Opinion:

Ok, the good point is that it's very clear where you're going. Bad point is that it's very much requiring understanding AI War I to get. Also, it paints a complete different structure for the KS. I had no idea that the "prototype" was that advanced already. That's also IMO the kind of stuff that needs to be in the KS... "we're looking for the last stretch of money to complete our game rather" than "we're building from scratch", I would vote for the first one.


Question:

Will the predicted modding & tutorial possibilities enable players to create scenarios ?
By that I mean, do you not bring in additional races because actually doing the race and the eventual campaigns associated to it, and the balancing, and the models, cost too much ? Or because you won't have the features in to make one "custom mod" additional race work ?

Thing is I and others are attached to this feature, and this would make a significant difference in my opinion of the game.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 01:51:01 PM by kasnavada »

Offline x4000

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2016, 02:44:29 PM »
Keith can largely respond to this himself, but a couple of notes for me:

- This was aimed at you guys, not a wider audience, at least thus far.  This needs much fleshing out before the next kickstarter, for sure.

- This is analogous to my 160 page design document, but intended to be more concise and gameplay-oriented rather than exhaustively feature-focused.

- This further splits things out into two documents so that one is more for anyone (intended), whereas the other one is for people who want the really heavy details.

- Overall the actual structure of the kickstarter campaign page itself will be vastly different from either one of these.  My intent is to base it loosely on the pitch from the first campaign, since we refined that over a goodly while... but to at the same time really redo the top end of that in particular.

- Yes, the prototype is already pretty decently far along.  If you look at the images in the first kickstarter about what is actually complete, it gives a fairly decent picture.  Though enough things are I guess in progress or ongoing that it's hard to make a judgement if you don't already know with those things.

- That said, the difference between a functional early prototype of the sim and the graphics and whatnot is a far cry from actually having a full game itself.  It is a lot of parts that already have had a ton of work on them, though, so it is something that isn't "we're starting from scratch here and these are mockups."  Never was, gui aside.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2016, 02:52:38 PM »
- This was aimed at you guys, not a wider audience, at least thus far.  This needs much fleshing out before the next kickstarter, for sure.

Ok, cool. For us, its probably fine.

Speaking of, I wouldn't mind helping trying to craft a coherent project description for the relaunch. I ended up not actually getting around to the "help us make this better" thread last time, for one reason or another.  It's weird that while I consider myself "not a people person" running the kickstarter for Velociraptor! Cannibalism! was apparently something I was very good at.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2016, 02:55:57 PM »
Good points from a number of you about the document assuming too much knowledge of the first game. Honestly I'm pitching to people who already know the first game, but it doesn't need to exclude the others.

The hacking change is interesting- requiring the mothership. I like it, but a slight misgiving there is that it probably means that if the hack goes wrong, you're going to die, as opposed to having to figure out how to handle the fallout of it going wrong. I suspect a lot of people reload saves if that happens in the current game anyway, though.
Also, I notice it's called the ark in this section- I think I actually prefer that name...
Yea, I wrote Central Control Ark (later abbreviated as "Ark") and Chris rewrote with Mothership. We now both agree that simply "Ark" is better.

Thanks for bringing up the savescum thing. Not that I'm worried about savescumming, actually, but it brought to mind a good refinement of the idea and a better term than "Admiral" (Chris's term, I'd written "Relay Control Starship" or something like that). Admiral is nice as a term but it makes it sound like a person, rather than a ship, and it might get people thinking along the lines of leaders with names and personalities and so on, in which case they would be disappointed.

I don't want all the "Admiral"/whatever ships to be able to hack, as at some point you'd have enough that you didn't mind losing one to a risky hack. But...

What I'm thinking is:
- Rename "Admiral" to "Aspect"
- Have different types of Aspect, all of which can do the basic logistical things (building stuff, repairing derelicts, etc):
-- Shield Aspect: has a big shield, useful for giving your fleet a chance to get off some extra salvos before it starts losing attack power to incoming damage
-- Refiner Aspect: gives a bonus to metal output on its planet
-- Sentinel Aspect: has a lot of tachyon coverage, and gives normal vision on all adjacent planets
-- Hacker Aspect: can hack, but cannot perform the more advanced hacks (this constraint would also apply to the Ark, initially)
-- probably others
- If an Aspect is on the same planet as your Ark, you can select it and click the "Merge" button to irrevocably remove that Aspect from the game and grant your Ark a stronger version of that Aspect's ability. So:
-- Shield: stronger shield
-- Refiner: bigger metal bonus
-- Sentinel: even more tachyon coverage, normal vision on all planets 2 hops out
-- Hacker: can hack, and can perform all hacks

So you'd have a choice between having an expendable control unit, or having a more powerful non-expendable control unit. And you'd be able to hack without risking a loss, but only a very limited number of times unless you recovered the wrecked hacker aspect.

Quote
With regard to the new armour mechanics and such, I'm slightly worried that this may be overusing percentage reductions, but I'll reserve judgement- the overlapping types certainly should create lots of potential for interesting interactions. Are those percentages planned to be the same across all units for simplicity, or different and the given numbers are examples?
The intent is for those %'s to be global across all armor/deflectors/shields, but I'm not dead set on that. I'm sure those numbers (global or otherwise) will change for balancing, I was just trying to get the idea across.

Anyway, gotta run again, but will check back later.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone :)
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Offline Apathetic

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2016, 04:07:26 PM »
My random thoughts on the multitude of damage mitigation.

It appears that 3 out of the 4 base 'triangle' ship types get unique forms of damage reduction.  This doesn't quite seem to be moving forward towards a simpler model.  I understand how armor, deflection and shields should represent different aspects of damage mitigation, but in the end they all end up doing the same thing.

Per the design document there are 3 types of mitigation:
   Armor: Reduce damage by a percentage.
   Deflection: Reduce damage by a percentage.
   Shields: Reduce damage by a percentage.

Having 3 different mechanics that end up doing the same thing seems a bit overkill.  To me it makes more sense to have armor always provide a damage mitigation, remove deflection and have shields be full absorption until they are depleted then the target(s) take full damage.



If deflection were removed from fighters something else would need to change to make the designed triangle work.  My proposal is to essentially give all squads a maximum amount of damage that they can take per single attack.

Already in the design document:
   All small ships are now squadrons
   Squadrons do damage proportional to their current health.

New Change:
   Enumerate how many ships are in each squadron, this will vary based on unit type.  Limit the maximum damage any single hit can do to the squadron to the equivalent health of 1 ship in the squadron (max squad health / squad size).

This should keep the triangle of bombers < fighters < missile corvettes < bombers ...

Example:
   Bombers: 5 ships / squad.  1 shot / ship.  High damage / shot.  Slow reload.
   Fighters:  15 ships / squad.  1 shot / ship.  Medium damage / shot.  Fast reload.
   Missile Corvettes: 5 ships / squad. 5 shots / ship.  Low damage / shot.  medium reload.

Fighters kill bombers.  They take the alpha strike, lose 5 fighters (5 attacks), then clean up while the bombers reload.
Missile Corvettes kill Fighters.  Given the quantity of shots / ships they can easily destroy squads of fighters.
Bombers kill Corvettes .  Bombers would initially take some damage on approach, but should be able to clean up the Corvettes with high damage shots.

Like anything the numbers would need to be tweaked to work.

I think that this could lead to some interesting features when something like the Neinzul Younglings are put back in, a unit with a nigh number of ships / squad.  Depending on the defenses, they would either get immediately vaporized or completely clog everything up.

Offline x4000

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2016, 04:08:34 PM »
For Admiral, not sure on the name, but something like Aspect is really confusing to me.  I get that we don't want it to sound like a person, though, for sure.

Random thesaurus pulls: overseer?  executor? director?  advocate?  broker?  proctor? dissident?  disrupter?  provocateur? ringleader?
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2016, 04:39:50 PM »
Lastly I'd move "tell me about motherships" to after "energy and fuel?" just because that section seems more like a "tell me about specific units" rather than "new mechanic? do tell" and I'd rather read about new mechanics before I read the nitty gritty about specific units.
I agree on the principle, but the stuff about your "if you lose this you lose the game" isn't nitty gritty about specific units, it's about a difference in the basic rules of the game. If you made a version of chess where the King can move like the Queen, that would be pretty prominent.

- Lots of technical details, but much of it is under the hood (lidgren? How many backers will know what that is?)
Good point.

For stuff that amounts to a performance improvement, I think it would be good to include something about what that performance will enable gameplay-wise that was hard in AIW1.
Also good. Perhaps it would be best to have a section fairly early on about "Why improve performance?". The main reasons are that there are lots of things we didn't do because they would chug the CPU. And as it was if you were playing very large battles (especially with lots of superweapons and the correspondingly larger AI forces) your computer would strongly object.

One point with Power/Fuel is, in AIW1, you could have a cascade failure of your defenses when the AI took out some energy collector you needed to power the shields on a wormhole mouth, etc, etc. It seems like that's going away.
It does prevent a loss of an power source on planet A shutting down the defenses on planet B. It doesn't stop the loss of a power source on planet A shutting down the defenses on planet A. In fact, it makes it very likely that a strike against your power source will shut things down on that planet, since the stuff on the planet can't be powered from something elsewhere.

The "Tell me more about Arks." up to "Where did my Cloaking go?" and similar gameplay feature advertized... ok. showing the gameplay's nice but why those among all the rest ? Ain't clear to me.
Those are the planned key design shifts. Other shifts are likely to happen during development, but those are the ones that are planned. So there's not an "all the rest" to show, unless you mean mechanics that aren't changing.

That's an unit list. It's not that I'm against a unit list, but... I think this requires a "retained mechanics" list of sorts.
The mechanics being retained are the ones necessary to implement those units. If no implemented unit has a mechanic, it doesn't really matter to the player whether or not that mechanic is implemented. Hence the focus on things the player "touches", rather than how things might look to us on the back-end.

I had no idea that the "prototype" was that advanced already. That's also IMO the kind of stuff that needs to be in the KS... "we're looking for the last stretch of money to complete our game rather" than "we're building from scratch", I would vote for the first one.
It's not the last stretch. I'd say we've done about 25% of the work. It's playable, sure, but the only mobile military ship in the prototype is the fighter :)

Will the predicted modding & tutorial possibilities enable players to create scenarios ?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: probably, but I can't commit to it giving you everything you need for a robust scenario editor or whatever. That might require more building out than I have time for during the project. I hope it winds up giving you all the power you need, though.

It appears that 3 out of the 4 base 'triangle' ship types get unique forms of damage reduction.  This doesn't quite seem to be moving forward towards a simpler model.
Those are the only forms of damage reduction/prevention planned for 1.0, and that's a lot less than the number of different hull types in AIW classic.

Having 3 different mechanics that end up doing the same thing seems a bit overkill.
They don't do the same thing. Shields cover an area of the map, and they absorb damage rather than only reduce it. Armor and deflectors have several differences. Deflectors reduce engine damage, for instance, but are ineffective if the unit is tractored.

Should armor and deflectors be more different? Quite possibly. But I don't see that as an argument for collapsing them into the same thing. Rather, for making them more different. For now I just plan to see how it works out in practice.

On the squads thing, yes, it was my intent that most shots not be able to kill more than one "sub-unit" inside a squad, which does differentiate the swarm types. But I didn't mention it, so thank you for pointing that out.

have shields be full absorption until they are depleted then the target(s) take full damage
I must have not been clear. These are basically forcefields from AIW classic, but they normally only take 30% damage from most stuff (the 70% reduction). So you have to batter down the shield and then you have to kill the hull. If it's some kind of big starship with a shield, you'd presumably want to use plasma torpedos to take down the shield, and then fusion bombs to blow the ship itself up. So no one unit would be the best counter to that starship.
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Offline Sounds

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Re: (Please review) Design info for re-launch of AIW 2 Kickstarter
« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2016, 05:46:44 PM »
Ah much better length than (whilst interesting) 160+ behemoth to start with. :P

The thing that I don't see is any talk about sound design, is this getting a look into?

I might have misunderstood, but are mines not being implemented? I kinda like that mechanic, but maybe I'm in the minority.

Also is their going to be any sort of short form game? Not defender mode, but I always wished there was a way to have the same game but could be played in under 2-4 hours.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 05:59:16 PM by Sounds »