Author Topic: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News  (Read 825 times)

Offline x4000

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AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« on: May 17, 2017, 06:40:41 PM »
Please see our latest update on Kickstarter for all the details.

What’s The TLDR?

1. We’re going to delay the actual Early Access launch on Steam until something like late June or early July. Previously it was intended to be May 29th.

2. BUT, for all the “Early Access” level backers from Kickstarter and BackerKit, we’re going to give you your keys on May 29th anyway, as promised.



Seriously, there's a lot of details there, and if you have any questions please let us know.  Thank you so much for your continued support as we take this game to bigger and better places than we had anticipated.  Speaking of, we just dropped a massive new release an hour or so ago. :)
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Offline RabidSanity

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2017, 06:53:05 PM »
I think this is a good move overall.  Too many games nowadays are being shipped too early with lots of bugs and/or incomplete/missing features.  This shows to me that you are willing to ensure the quality of the game before shipping.  Also avoiding angry early access reviews on steam is definitely beneficial to the future of the game.

Offline Aklyon

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2017, 08:43:01 PM »
Aye, best to leave it to the people who are interested to look at the game and poke at it before you let the easily-bothered steam reviewers in :)

Offline Cyborg

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2017, 09:04:28 PM »
I agree completely. There needs to be some quality of life improvements for the game to be playable. I found it really difficult to play so far, but I figured that was just because everyone is focused on getting the content in the game rather than making it playable.
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Offline x4000

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2017, 09:19:24 PM »
I found it really difficult to play so far, but I figured that was just because everyone is focused on getting the content in the game rather than making it playable.

I couldn't agree more, and the reasons are exactly as you suspect.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2017, 11:22:29 AM »
I think there are 3 critical pieces that need to be in the game to for an Early Access to really work out. One is lots of features, ship types, and so on. This has been the primary emphasis of the development work so far, and it seems to be going well.

The second is UI design/polish and quality of life stuff.  Little things like "Making the build menu look nice", having settings be changable in game from a nice menu, giving the user clear feedback for things, etc... This hasn't really happened too much yet.

The third piece is "making it feel like a fun game"; making sure that the gameplay is challenging but still fun. This includes game balance, tuning, and generally figuring out what styles of gameplay are intended. An example of gameplay styles is that the game seems focused much more on keeping a big fleetball together around your Ark/flagships, and much less about controlling territory and taking critical planets. The primary reason to capture planets right now seems to be for Fuel to build a larger fleetball, which is frankly kinda boring. 

Here's another, more concrete example of the sort of work that has to go into making the game itself fun. One thing I miss from AIWC is that it doesn't feel like the AI can ever sneak up on you. In the basegame there was a definite element of fighting for vision, making sure to have scouts, tracking the Threat Fleet and so on. It was something I had to prioritize and work for, and feels like that element of the game is basically gone. Sure you have to destroy some Sensor Scramblers, but it's a "do it once, then forget". Is there a way to recapture that strategic element of the game? Is it even a worthwhile element of gameplay to want to recapture? Personally, I think that having every enemy planet starting with a sensor scrambler might be fun. Then you have to earn your vision of the galaxy map! But there's a lot of rounds of "Find a vision for how the game should work, try it, get feedback, iterate" potentially in there and there just hasn't been a chance for it yet.

So needless to say, I think pushing the broader release date makes perfect sense. I think I've spent more time than most playing the game so far, and it definitely isn't a Fun, Playable game. I feel like I've bought a really nice but unfurnished house, and I've got lots of furniture stacked in the living room because I'm still in the middle of moving in. I haven't figured out where the couch is going to go, what sort of wall hangings I'll need, whether that corner there needs a plant or not... But I'm very excited to try out all the possibilities, and we just need time to make that happen.

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2017, 11:41:32 AM »
That is an incredibly apt description of the whole thing, BadgerBadger.  I find myself really nodding along with that.
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2017, 12:04:57 PM »
An example of gameplay styles is that the game seems focused much more on keeping a big fleetball together around your Ark/flagships, and much less about controlling territory and taking critical planets. The primary reason to capture planets right now seems to be for Fuel to build a larger fleetball, which is frankly kinda boring.
Yea, the mobility of your "king unit" is a huge change from AIWC, and it's one I'm very excited about. That said, it's perhaps too mobile now.

As you alluded to, I don't really want to start making balance/design changes before the non-stretch-goal content is in place to be tuned as a whole (or at least in big parts), but here's an idea we might try shortly after hitting that point:

When you move the Ark to a different planet, the AI notices.

Perhaps it's a temporary increase in AIP. If we're really mean, perhaps it's a (small) permanent increase in AIP. In either case, perhaps it sends an immediate additional wave.

So the idea is: yes, you can re-base, but it's not without a cost.

On the other hand, one of the goals is for you to be able to fall back in the face of an overwhelming assault and have a chance at wearing out the attack. If falling back increases the attack on you, that's less likely to be a real thing. So, tradeoffs.


Quote
One thing I miss from AIWC is that it doesn't feel like the AI can ever sneak up on you. In the basegame there was a definite element of fighting for vision, making sure to have scouts, tracking the Threat Fleet and so on. It was something I had to prioritize and work for, and feels like that element of the game is basically gone.
Yea, one of the things I picked up over years of AIWC feedback is "scouting isn't fun". So it's basically gone, replaced with a mechanism whereby you "unlock" the galaxy one chunk at a time. That's not ideal, but at least it gets in your way a lot less. But one of the problems we have right now is that the game spends so much time "not getting in your way" that you wonder what you're even there for.

Still, having to keep sending out these little units all the time to scout and picket is a big pain when you get past early experiences with the game.

One possibility is to have each of your sensor arrays exert a certain amount of "reveal pressure" on planets within X hops (further out, less pressure), and to have each of the AI's planets exert a certain amount of "conceal pressure" on itself and planets within Y hops.

Then you simply have current vision on all planets where you have a unit, and on all planets where reveal > conceal (possibly you have to keep it that way for a minute before getting vision, to avoid rapid switch-back-and-forth exploits).

The AI's sensor scramblers would remain but not impact this in any way, they simply control which planets you know about at all.

So the difference from the current model is that if you lose or scrap a sensor array you can lose part of your current vision. Sensor arrays are most efficient on the "front", but cost power to run, and so decrease the defenses you can hold that front with. You can put them one step behind the front, but power is also used for resource-augmenting buildings, and other stuff, and even a not-on-the-front planet may be called on to defend itself or at least have enough tachyon coverage to keep the cloaked raiders honest.


Would that be enough to recapture the sense of having to fight for vision? Dunno. If it turns out to not be enough, we could add more ongoing player agency back into it by having you pick "target" planets for your sensor arrays (or at least prioritize planets), since one change from AIWC is that you can select planets on the galaxy map and give commands concerning them.


So yea, lots of iteration of this sort will be necessary, I'm sure. I look forward to it :)
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Offline x4000

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2017, 01:20:05 PM »
I also want to chime in and say that if we wind up needing some more ships or buildings to support whatever new features, we should be able to swing that.  Within reason.  If scouts need to come back, for instance, or some sort of stationary civilian units that you can't bring with your Ark, etc, etc.
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Offline Toranth

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2017, 01:59:21 PM »
An example of gameplay styles is that the game seems focused much more on keeping a big fleetball together around your Ark/flagships, and much less about controlling territory and taking critical planets. The primary reason to capture planets right now seems to be for Fuel to build a larger fleetball, which is frankly kinda boring.
Yea, the mobility of your "king unit" is a huge change from AIWC, and it's one I'm very excited about. That said, it's perhaps too mobile now.
Well, you can always steal a page from StarCraft and Endless Legend, by making so that when your Ark ups and moves, you temporarily lose access to some of your other stuff.  Maybe you lose features like sight and hacking, or stop gaining minerals, or it drains fuel constantly, or even prevent building from anything except the Ark.  If there were certain structures that only function if the Ark is stationary in that system, for example, you could provide an incentive-anchor, so to speak.

Of course, if there was a cost to moving, there'd need to be two clear, distinct modes to prevent accidents.  Maybe a tough, lightly armed fortress that builds stuff vs a mobile, heavily armed ship that can't build much?


Quote
One thing I miss from AIWC is that it doesn't feel like the AI can ever sneak up on you. In the basegame there was a definite element of fighting for vision, making sure to have scouts, tracking the Threat Fleet and so on. It was something I had to prioritize and work for, and feels like that element of the game is basically gone.
Yea, one of the things I picked up over years of AIWC feedback is "scouting isn't fun". So it's basically gone, replaced with a mechanism whereby you "unlock" the galaxy one chunk at a time. That's not ideal, but at least it gets in your way a lot less. But one of the problems we have right now is that the game spends so much time "not getting in your way" that you wonder what you're even there for.
The only problem I had with AIWC scouting was that it was so straightforward - send mobs of Scouts until they can't get any further, then use Raids to kill Sentinels until your Scouts can go further again.  Then unlock more Scouts to send a bigger mob.
There was a thread years back about ways to improve the scouting/cloaking game - different types of Sentinels, Scout-hunting Guardians, etc.  Some of that might help introduce some variety here, too, but...

One possibility is to have each of your sensor arrays exert a certain amount of "reveal pressure" on planets within X hops (further out, less pressure), and to have each of the AI's planets exert a certain amount of "conceal pressure" on itself and planets within Y hops.

Then you simply have current vision on all planets where you have a unit, and on all planets where reveal > conceal (possibly you have to keep it that way for a minute before getting vision, to avoid rapid switch-back-and-forth exploits).

The AI's sensor scramblers would remain but not impact this in any way, they simply control which planets you know about at all.

So the difference from the current model is that if you lose or scrap a sensor array you can lose part of your current vision. Sensor arrays are most efficient on the "front", but cost power to run, and so decrease the defenses you can hold that front with. You can put them one step behind the front, but power is also used for resource-augmenting buildings, and other stuff, and even a not-on-the-front planet may be called on to defend itself or at least have enough tachyon coverage to keep the cloaked raiders honest.
This sounds like a much better idea - IF the sensors are not too expensive.  If there is a serious opportunity cost in terms of metal, power, or especially Knowledge, I don't think it'd work.  It could be kinda interesting if Hacking could be used to replace some scouting, too - Hack an AI sensor Jammer to gain sight instead, or such.  Again, assuming the price was right.

Offline WolfWhiteFire

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2017, 04:22:31 PM »
Quote from: BadgerBadger on Today at 10:22:29 AM
An example of gameplay styles is that the game seems focused much more on keeping a big fleetball together around your Ark/flagships, and much less about controlling territory and taking critical planets. The primary reason to capture planets right now seems to be for Fuel to build a larger fleetball, which is frankly kinda boring.
Yea, the mobility of your "king unit" is a huge change from AIWC, and it's one I'm very excited about. That said, it's perhaps too mobile now.

As you alluded to, I don't really want to start making balance/design changes before the non-stretch-goal content is in place to be tuned as a whole (or at least in big parts), but here's an idea we might try shortly after hitting that point:

When you move the Ark to a different planet, the AI notices.

Perhaps it's a temporary increase in AIP. If we're really mean, perhaps it's a (small) permanent increase in AIP. In either case, perhaps it sends an immediate additional wave.

So the idea is: yes, you can re-base, but it's not without a cost.

On the other hand, one of the goals is for you to be able to fall back in the face of an overwhelming assault and have a chance at wearing out the attack. If falling back increases the attack on you, that's less likely to be a real thing. So, tradeoffs.
Well, you can always steal a page from StarCraft and Endless Legend, by making so that when your Ark ups and moves, you temporarily lose access to some of your other stuff.  Maybe you lose features like sight and hacking, or stop gaining minerals, or it drains fuel constantly, or even prevent building from anything except the Ark.  If there were certain structures that only function if the Ark is stationary in that system, for example, you could provide an incentive-anchor, so to speak.

Of course, if there was a cost to moving, there'd need to be two clear, distinct modes to prevent accidents.  Maybe a tough, lightly armed fortress that builds stuff vs a mobile, heavily armed ship that can't build much?

I haven't gotten the alpha access, so I don't know exactly how things are now, but I am not fond of the idea of a punishment for moving your Ark, especially since you have to move it for hacking and the such, and I like the idea of being able to use it as a powerful unit for attacking, but with a high risk and losing out somewhere else. Maybe a solution could be something like having it provide a lot of resources, and if you move it off a planet it "disconnects" from the grid, and makes no resources until you have it on a planet for so long until you can reconnect it. Alternatively, maybe have something where it is too big too fit into wormholes, or has extremely advanced weaponry and shields and the such that unfortunately don't mix well with the wormhole, so you have to build a special structure on the planet it is on and any planet you want to move it to (and a way to build one on hostile planets), allowing it to get from one place to the other, and if you move it somewhere vulnerable, the AI may try destroying the structure in order to cut off any retreat until you can rebuild it. The structures could also work as something needed for stuff such as golems as well. Maybe have an alternative option to be able to disable all functions besides movement to get rid of the interference, allowing it to move to other planets, but with all the systems taking a while to get back online, possibly including a sort of cloaking device that only protects from scanners, so unless the AI is on a planet with it they won't know where it is, but if you choose that option to move it rather than building the structure it pretty much tells the AI "Hey, big juicy Ark here for you, if you think you can destroy it here." That could also possibly be further complicated by having various systems and the such doing different tasks, such as resource production, manufacturing, shields, engines, weaponry, and the protection from scanners, and if you go through a wormhole without using the special structure you have to choose some to disable, and possibly have it where you can increase power to each system normally at the cost of decreasing the power in another, for example, if you are fighting you could redirect all power going to scanner protection (since the AI already knows where it is) and resource production, so you can increase power in your weapons and shields, or when you think you are safe, you can do the opposite, though of course it wouldn't be instant.

Offline WolfWhiteFire

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2017, 04:29:18 PM »
Actually, even if not as a solution to too much mobility for your ark, I think having different systems and the such you could adjust the amount of power going to in order to specialize the Ark for a specific purpose at the moment would really be a pretty cool addition, to prevent using that kind of stuff as part of balancing mobility from causing issues in the early game, since you are supposed to be able to choose a planet to take over as your homeworld that you have to fight for, maybe you could have it where until you take that first planet the AI won't realize the Ark is a threat or at all important and won't care too much about it besides having ships on the planet attack it, or maybe have how much priority the AI puts on it as a target be dependent on your AIP, when it is low, the AI doesn't consider the Ark or us puny remnants of human resistance a threat or anything worth paying attention to, but as it goes up, they care more and also notice more and more how often you use the Ark, and at first suspect and later be certain that it is key to your battle against them, and therefore an extremely high priority target.

Offline TheVampire100

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2017, 11:19:50 AM »
Today's the day! Can't wait to get my key and finally join the fun.

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2017, 12:32:36 PM »
Today's the day! Can't wait to get my key and finally join the fun.

Indeed!  It will probably be about 4pm EST, roughly.  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.

Well, I say "we," but mainly I mean Keith. ;)  My role is mainly technical and artistic, not gameplay-related.  We can't have two cooks in that kitchen, and I have plenty on my plate as it is in making sure that the battles can be sufficiently big and Keith has enough CPU left over after my stuff in order to actually run a game, heh.

I'm excited about today, and having more folks in, but I'm just also a bit worried about any backlash from folks who might think this is something that it's not.  We'd originally planned on a three-stage process of rolling this out to players, but now we're having a four-stage one essentially.

Cheers. :)
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Offline WolfWhiteFire

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Re: AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2017, 01:46:25 PM »
Where do we go to claim our keys, backerkit?