Arcen Games

Games => AI War II => Topic started by: x4000 on April 23, 2018, 10:54:22 AM

Title: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 23, 2018, 10:54:22 AM
Hey all -- Chris here.

We've hit a juncture point with AI War 2. We’ve built a lot of cool things, learned a lot, and now it’s time for a soft reboot. The current plan is to pivot the gameplay to very closely resemble the original AI War, but on our new engine, and then build up from that foundation.

Achievements So Far


So very much is going right with this game, from a technical level and an engine standpoint.

New Teaser Trailer!


On that note, here’s an excellent new teaser trailer that Chris and Craig created together. It’s light on details, but it’s just a teaser, after all:

The Sticking Point

The new game just isn’t living up to the first one’s legacy. We started out with a lot of design shifts away from the original AI War, and the design just hasn’t been as robust or fun as the original.

The Two Paths


We’ve done quite a lot of engine work to make the actual game that runs on top of it mostly data-driven, so we have a pretty decent amount of flexibility here. For the last few months, we’ve been chasing various issues in gameplay, trying to tidy those up, but it just kept feeling less and less “like AI War.” So, we had two options:

  1. Keep doing that and hope for the best, particularly that it magically starts feeling “like AI War” again.

  2. Go back and actually make AI War again, at least the base game, and then build from that foundation rather than starting way off somewhere else.

As you have likely already gathered, we’re going with option 2. As players, Keith and I have been really let down by how different certain sequels felt from their predecessors, and we really didn’t want to do that to you folks.

We want this to be the sequel you truly wanted, that takes the original game and then goes forward in a refinement fashion. Total Annihilation turns into Supreme Commander, not SupCom becoming SupCom 2. Age of Empires 1 begets AOE2, not AOE2 morphing into AOE3. All of those games listed are good, but there’s a reason that the second in each series is typically more acclaimed than the third.

Future Growth


We do know that some of you backed for something more radical in departure from the original game. Why have the same old experience again? That’s certainly a valid point, and that’s why we talk about this as being a foundation for future growth.

Look at how much the first game grew from version 1.0, way back in 2009, through six expansions and version 8.0 in 2014. They’re radically different games. That said, we were constrained at every turn by an engine that was designed for street racing, and that we were trying to take offroad. That just doesn’t work.

The new engine for AI War 2 is so robust and flexible that we can take it street racing, offroad, or underwater. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too, at least eventually? Based on the underlying engine, there’s nothing stopping us from having n factions, xyz ships, and all sorts of new sub-games and mechanics on top of it if the response to the baseline is positive enough.

One example: We’ve floated a variety of crazy ideas about hacking in the last few weeks, for instance; and while those are Way Out Of Scope right now, there’s nothing stopping us from implementing those exact systems or something like them a year or two from now, once we know the baseline game is fun and feels “like AI War.”

Second example: in the preliminary design document we’re working on, check out the section way at the bottom about using Arks as champions. That’s something that we want to attempt sooner than later, and it could be an enormous leap forward on the “radical new ideas” front. Same with the mercenaries section in that document.

Schedule Changes


At this point, we’re looking at Early Access (the “fun point” fulcrum) being sometime in July. That will give us a lot of time to further implement Eric’s UI and refine some visual elements and whatnot while we’re at it. Obviously, schedules change, and this is a tight one on the side of Keith’s core gameplay work.

THAT said, the transition toward the fun point is going to come in 5 overall waves of core features from Keith. The 1st wave being minimum set of units to have a functional, winnable and losable game; the 2nd focusing on core variety; 3 and 4 focusing on various toys on human and AI sides; and 5 wrapping up the last toys as well as adding the minor factions noted on the design doc as being pre-fun-point. (Nemesis and Spire are both post-1.0)

Hopefully we’ll have a general idea of our progress, and people’s reactions to it, throughout those five waves.

After Early Access starts, there’s a bunch more stuff to add and tune, and we think the 1.0 can still be October. Some of the stretch goal content (Spire, interplanetary weapons, possibly some merc stuff) may be after 1.0, but that was always the plan, anyhow.

Staff Changes


All the above said, this is not coming without cost; it's a major financial blow to the company, and unfortunately we can’t afford to keep our longtime artist Blue after April. She’s been with us for five years, and will be sorely missed, but we've known for a while this might be something that had to happen (as did she).

We're basically folding back down into a quasi-one-man company, although that's giving me too much credit. I'll be the only full-time employee, at any rate. Keith is part-time and has been for some time. With the AI War 2 project being almost a year over schedule, something had to give. For myself, I've taken on a lot of debt, and am about to take on more.

We Remain Committed


You better bet that the game is going to come out; we’re working hard to make this truly shine, not just as a half-baked, unenjoyable mess. We’re determined that this will arrive at 1.0 as something that we can be proud of and that you can enjoy for many hundreds of hours.

This Isn’t an Engine Overhaul


We want to emphasize this! The AI War 2 engine framework isn't changing much. The engine we built basically kicks butt, with all the moddability and support for advanced UIs and multi-threading, and so much more.

What's changing is what we do with that engine, back towards something we know was fun on a different (much worse) engine. That solid baseline will be something we can have confidence in, and will be a great place from which to grow.

Example question: “Is the engine is flexible enough to go back to the original vision of mobile Arks as your king unit, and no stationary home command station?” Answer: an emphatic YES. The engine is so flexible that you can designate a king-unit option in XML and select it through the interface. That king-unit could be a squadron of fighters if you want, or the largest spirecraft with steroid stats. All of that can be done, at this very moment already, without any need for more than XML edits.

The 40+ Page Design Document


Measure twice, cut once. We’ve just spent the last week going back and planning things. Here's the detailed design document.

In general there are a few upcoming stages:

  1. Working on getting it to match the AIWC base game. (The Pre-Fun timespan.)

  2. Players declare it is as fun as the base game of AIWC was. (The “Fun-Point.”) We may take it to Early Access at this point?

  3. We start bringing in more features. (The “Post-Fun-Point.”)

  4. We release the game to 1.0, probably in October.

  5. We do more stuff to meet our obligations as well as our personal goals. (The “Post-1.0 period.”)

At this point, Keith and I are feeling like the feature set as planned for the pre-fun-point is pretty darn huge on its own, and then there’s a variety of stuff planned for pre-1.0 that makes it even larger. We weren’t trying to expand the scope, but such is life.

There are also a number of ideas of varying tentativeness for after the fun-point that we want to try, such as bringing Arks in as a champion style. Things like that should really make the game feel like it has been taken to the next level compared to the first.

Looking for Modders!


Did you know:

We’ll provide as much help as we can in getting you the info you need, and documenting all of this as things go on. If you have questions about where anything is, you can always ask Keith or Chris. Badger probably also knows, and before long we hope to have a solid stable of folks who know this well enough to help others.

Further, I feel it’s worth pointing out:

What do we WANT from modders?


A good question was raised: what are we really asking of modders, here? Honestly, that depends on the modder.

Some folks like putting in interface bits to solve personal pain points that they had with the original interface. Others have ideas for creative extra factions -- for instance the Nanocaust -- and we’d love to have those be something that you’re working on as we move toward 1.0, rather than as we move toward 2.0. If it’s all the same to you, anyway, it’s more valuable to us sooner than later, if that makes sense?

But in general, it’s kind of a “hey, if poking around at games like this is your sort of thing, we’re throwing a party and you’re invited.” We’re happy to show you around the house, not just throw you into the deep end of the pool without floaties.

Short Term Goals


We’re going to be aggressively pursuing the Fun Point, with Early Access to follow; and meanwhile building up and refining the UI, controls, and so forth to be the best that they can be.

Long Term Help


On the further volunteering end of things: if you want to help out with any sort of balance testing or custom unit design using the mechanics that we decide on as final, then the XML is easy to edit, and our doors are always open on our forums and on mantis.

Thanks for your continued support!

Best,
Chris
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Cyborg on April 23, 2018, 07:38:05 PM
 :-\
Difficult to read. I'm so sorry. But it's the right decision.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Sounds on April 23, 2018, 08:07:31 PM
I worried this might need to happen when you last spoke about changes to the UI (which were definitely needed) and the time needed to do it right.

I had hoped to help out at some point UI wise, but my own schedule meant that it was nigh on impossible. Even with the little time I had spare to help every time I opened the alpha/beta I could see the game was drifting from what I actually loved about the original. So my thinking up (until this post) was "oh well, I'll just keep playing the original as the new one is not for me.".

As of now you've sparked my interest again.  :D
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 23, 2018, 09:18:13 PM
Glad to hear we're sparking your interest again, Sounds.  That's definitely a good sign. :)

And thanks, Cyborg -- seems pretty much everyone is in agreement.  I feel glad about the decision, at least.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Sounds on April 23, 2018, 10:28:55 PM
Glad to hear we're sparking your interest again, Sounds.  That's definitely a good sign. :)

And thanks, Cyborg -- seems pretty much everyone is in agreement.  I feel glad about the decision, at least.

Looking (hopefully) forward to kicking the tyres this weekend. :)
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: chemical_art on April 24, 2018, 09:32:05 AM
Looking forward to the new direction this brings.

The only thing I will point out as that after this latest burst of growing pains that on the strategic level we stick to this plan rather then shift again. From a project standpoint this update in part has led to going two weeks without an update and it would be hardly realistic to expect an update this week so that makes it almost three weeks. I am remaining disciplined in keeping attention on this project since I actually have time to do so but it is difficult when updates start to drag on this long. This is a petty, selfish complaint but it is an honest one just because other things are calling for my attention constantly. Up until a month ago I would check in maybe every 6 weeks and I certainly don't want to fall back into that. The longer without updates, the more likely I fall off the project and don't recover for too long.

Once we get the initial groundwork done I hope we can have an extended period of constantly having a process of steady mixture of small inputs and refinements, with a new fleetship or two every week. I could conceivably do a (from my point of view) a "full" playthrough every week with feedback if the project ever gets to that pace.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 24, 2018, 11:27:35 AM
Cheers, guys.

Definitely I understand the desire to have more frequent updates.  Things are going to be a bit messy for a while, but we may have our earliest release (Keith's wave 1 or 5) done by late next week.  Not sure exactly.  I am going to try to match his pacing, and also push out some releases.  I have to admit my productivity has taken a bit of a hit from some pretty bad depression so far this week, although I'm not sure what purpose is served by saying that.  I'm trying to get fully back in the saddle, because I know that keeping this thing going is important to keeping people's attention.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: chemical_art on April 24, 2018, 01:55:57 PM
It's very natural to not feel well at a time like this Chris. This is a stressful shift and not at all something you were hoping for when this all started. Please don't take anything negative here personally, it is from love and a desire for this to succeed that I put this game through the paces.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: etheric42 on April 24, 2018, 02:26:22 PM
I worried this might need to happen when you last spoke about changes to the UI (which were definitely needed) and the time needed to do it right.

I had hoped to help out at some point UI wise, but my own schedule meant that it was nigh on impossible. Even with the little time I had spare to help every time I opened the alpha/beta I could see the game was drifting from what I actually loved about the original. So my thinking up (until this post) was "oh well, I'll just keep playing the original as the new one is not for me.".

As of now you've sparked my interest again.  :D

Just curious what was the thing(s) you loved about the original that were being drifted away from?  Not that I disagree, but I've been trying to pin my finger down on what it is.  A lot of people have said "depth", but I wasn't sure what depth was lost besides a lot of different ships and minor factions and AI types, but that's not really right at the mechanical level, that's mostly just content.  Right?
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 24, 2018, 02:36:58 PM
It's very natural to not feel well at a time like this Chris. This is a stressful shift and not at all something you were hoping for when this all started. Please don't take anything negative here personally, it is from love and a desire for this to succeed that I put this game through the paces.

Thanks, I appreciate it.  I keep forgetting this, but I'm also just stressed out because my grandfather is in the hospital right now.  Last grandparent on my side, and he's been having continual medical emergencies for 4ish days now, is stuck in intensive care, and so on.  It keeps drifting out of my head, because I naturally push those thoughts away and then forget why I have this underlying ill feeling.  That wasn't there last week, since he was fine then (relatively speaking).

Anyway, when it rains it pours. My wife has one grandparent left, and I have one left, and that's it for us.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: .hawk. on April 24, 2018, 11:13:59 PM
Just curious what was the thing(s) you loved about the original that were being drifted away from?  Not that I disagree, but I've been trying to pin my finger down on what it is.  A lot of people have said "depth", but I wasn't sure what depth was lost besides a lot of different ships and minor factions and AI types, but that's not really right at the mechanical level, that's mostly just content.  Right?

In my mind, it isn't/wasn't content lag from the first game that left the, apparently wide spread, underwhelming feeling when playing AI War 2 to this point. Not to just regurgitate point in Chris' OP, but for me it was mostly the missing logistical component as compered to classic that made the game less interesting. A fully mobile command station sounded awesome as a concept but in practice it kept you from having to spread out and make hard decisions on what to build where. Sure, you still needed to keep resources coming in but specific planets seemed less special and loosing them was less scary. In Classic, you won (for the most part) on the front lines but when you lost, it was always lost on the opposite end of the map. You couldn't be everywhere at once. You had weaknesses. And the AI seemed to always find interesting and intelligent ways to exploit them. You could largely circumvent some of this in 2 before the pivot and, in my opinion, that made for far less interesting gameplay. I'm sure others have different, probably better, reasons but thats my 2 cents.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: crash6674 on April 29, 2018, 05:05:09 PM
this is prob not something you want to be doing right before a release... there is no way you can rebuild the game by july.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: BadgerBadger on April 29, 2018, 05:35:21 PM
Well, you couldn't rebuild AIWC with the old engine. AIW2's engine is extremely flexible and it's very easy to add new pieces in. It might not be every single feature in AIWC, but a very playable game with most of the elements that made AIWC great is definitely doable.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 29, 2018, 08:23:50 PM
We're also not rebuilding from scratch.  We only have to do the diffs between each feature here and in AIWC.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Magnus on April 30, 2018, 07:37:14 AM
So while waiting for the pivot to restart the playtests, I went back and played a full campaign of the first game, to refresh my memory and have a good baseline to make comparisons. I used the beginner script to get a feel for something which is, I think, more similar to the starting situation of the new game; so the difficulty was 6 and it lacked most of the advanced options and units.

It was a very long (43 hours on the official timer but a lot more than that in reality due to dozens of reloads), total-conquest type of campaign where I conquered very nearly the whole galaxy and ended with AIP over 1200. This is the map right before my final assault:

(https://preview.ibb.co/bGV6EH/Screenshot_2018_04_30_12_45_06.png) (https://ibb.co/cv5v8c)

After this, I went back and re-read the google document. Here are a few observations:

Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: BadgerBadger on April 30, 2018, 08:37:16 AM
A few comments. There is a "Automatically have X engineers and Y remains rebuilders per planet" option in AIWC already. Did using that not help with the engineers/rebuilders issue?

Oh and, there's a fun bug with the "Build X engineers per planet". If you say "Build 1 mark2 engineer per planet" then the game still automatically builds it for you even if you haven't researched mark2 engineers. Keith, please don't fix that ;-)

You can get supply deep into AI territory by "island hopping"; just go capture a single planet deep in the AI space (put the 5 or 6 colony ships in a transport and hope one makes it). You never have to conquer everything.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Magnus on April 30, 2018, 10:23:54 AM
A few comments. There is a "Automatically have X engineers and Y remains rebuilders per planet" option in AIWC already. Did using that not help with the engineers/rebuilders issue?

Yes, but they stopped being built while the planet was under attack. The queue restarted whenever there were just a few enemy ships left. Not sure why, exactly.

Quote
You can get supply deep into AI territory by "island hopping"; just go capture a single planet deep in the AI space (put the 5 or 6 colony ships in a transport and hope one makes it). You never have to conquer everything.

Ah sorry, my bad, you're completely right. I was forgetting the side effects of my.. ahem...  liberal use of nukes. I built some command stations on nuked planets but of course those are permanently out of supply.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: etheric42 on April 30, 2018, 01:44:32 PM
The AI could be tactically stupid even in the first game. The most obvious offender tactic is to have one of your planets with many turrets destroyed by the A.I.; all you need to stall even a huge fleet is to keep sending new remain rebuilders from the nearby planet and micromanage them to keep rebuilding the turrets, easy to do especially if you built the sniper ones all around the planet "border". I used this tactic to massive effect to gain enough time to replenish my warhead stockpiles and deal with several attacks which were otherwise too massive for my defenses to handle. Not sure how much of this is due to the lack of advanced unit types, though.

Ugh, that sounds like really annoying micro.

I see that engineers and remain rebuilders are back in the game; for the love of God, either replace them with the new planetary controller or allow them to be automatically rebuilt even if the planet is under attack. By far the most annoying thing in the whole campaign was the micromanaging of the rebuilding of those two units during a planetary defense. Or maybe flat out forbid them to be rebuilt and/or warped in from a nearby planet during an attack; this will block cheese tactics like mine above, but note it will also make defense much harder.
Keeping all the units at the latest rank is an easy win over the first game.

The problem with this removing civilian units like that from the game is that it isn't clear how much logistics that drops out of the game. (see comment from .hawk.)  And then trying to figure out a new system to give the same depth to replace them with would be a gamble.  And we found it that it didn't necessarily block those cheese tactics since the planetary controller was rebuilding turrets and causing the attacking AI to keep retreating to destroy them.

I'm not saying you're wrong.  I dislike having engineers/rebuilders as well.  I hate to say "wait for them to be reimplemented and then make good points to remove them again or make them less annoying", but I think that's the only option on the table (from my understanding).

The revert to the gazillion hull and weapon types is, I think, a mistake. On paper having a hugely complex rock-paper-scissor subsystem is good, but in practice, it will get ignored the instant it becomes unmanageable due to the lower cap between player skill's and game controls' abilities to actually use it to your advantage. I didn't even try to start fiddling around with ship and turret types and just went straight to "build as much of every type as you can and throw everything at the A.I" stage. Maybe an advisor of some kind which tells you the most prevalent A.I. hull types observed so far and which units/turrets kill them most easily?

I dislike this too, but we were finding other problems with the 3 or 4 type rock paper scissors approach.  Having only 3 types makes it easier for the player to see and exploit the relations, but classic RTS controls are not well designed to implement this that level of control (especially not with hundreds of units with 7 or more types).  So we could have a legible number of defenses and incentivize people fighting against the control scheme, have a legible number of defenses and risk implementing a new control scheme that might not work/be liked, or revert back to an illegible number of defenses.  Sure, the most masochistic of players will still take the AIWC defenses and control scheme and micro them into effectiveness but I can't think of a solution that isn't a gamble and at least that isn't worse off than AIWC.

Now, your idea of an advisor... perhaps a science advisor that is recommending you build X and Y type ships because the AI is predominantly building A and B ships is interesting.  I'm afraid it might end up being bad advice because perhaps the player just hasn't seen enough AI ships yet or maybe those ships aren't the ones the player should be worried about, but I think it's worth exploring for post-fun-point.  Any suggestions on how to implement?

Rally points for ships being built from a mobile dock. Pretty please?

The current plan is everything that builds uses the same interface, so they should still be able to get rally points.

I know that I sound like a broken record here, but fleet build caps specific for control groups would make waging a multi-front war so much easier for the player.

Yeah, I know.  One of the two design proposals for dealing with the rock-paper-scissors effect discussed above was exactly that, turning control groups into discrete fleets that you slowly accumulate as you pick up flagships/golems through the game (each flagship or golem was its own fleet, plus it might be able to build a certain amount of escorting fleet ships, starships were buff ships a fleet could equip).  The intended play was to fly each fleet as a unit, although you could split the fleet up and select individual fleetships if necessary in a fight (but ships that left formation lost their buffs, so you better have had a good reason).  It was a very cool idea, but a significant departure from AI War and a risk to implement and test (possibly to find out it wasn't fun) at this stage in the game.

Turret caps used to be galaxy-wide and became planet-wide in AIWC several expansions in.  Who knows, per-fleet caps might come some day too (or the other, more tactical proposal).
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: BadgerBadger on April 30, 2018, 01:47:30 PM
I actually really like that engineers and remains rebuilders require micro and you can get benefits out of in depth control of them. I like having some micro-intensive aspects of gameplay.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: WolfWhiteFire on April 30, 2018, 04:00:25 PM
Sorry if you may have answered this somewhere else, but with the heavy focus on modding, do you plan on having steam workshop for this game?
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 30, 2018, 04:15:45 PM
Sorry if you may have answered this somewhere else, but with the heavy focus on modding, do you plan on having steam workshop for this game?

Probably not; it seems like a really clunky system from what little I've seen of it, and we want to support GOG folks equally. If there's a C# api for it and a lot of demand, then we might consider it. The C# bindings from valve themselves are useless; they don't even compile. There are various wrappers with c# apis on the unity asset store and on github, but I can't recall if there was one for workshop.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Magnus on April 30, 2018, 07:06:33 PM
Ugh, that sounds like really annoying micro.

It is, but the benefits are just too good to pass up. I could indefinitely stop huge waves simply by moving them in one spot and having them rebuild a few dozen turrets; then when the A.I. fleet finished killing the turrets in their current spot they would start moving toward the newly rebuilt turrets and I would move back the rebuilders toward the other spot and keep doing this forever. It certainly helped having rank 5 turrets available, too. And infinite range snipers made this more effective since you could plant them all over the planetary map and still be able to fire upon enemy units, so while stalling I was also decreasing fleet strength.


The problem with this removing civilian units like that from the game is that it isn't clear how much logistics that drops out of the game. (see comment from .hawk.)  And then trying to figure out a new system to give the same depth to replace them with would be a gamble.  And we found it that it didn't necessarily block those cheese tactics since the planetary controller was rebuilding turrets and causing the attacking AI to keep retreating to destroy them.

I'm not saying you're wrong.  I dislike having engineers/rebuilders as well.  I hate to say "wait for them to be reimplemented and then make good points to remove them again or make them less annoying", but I think that's the only option on the table (from my understanding).

Engineers and rebuilders have one and only one logistic effect: they speed up the building/repairing of your mobile/immobile units but also put more strain on your economy the more of them you use.
You could have the exact same effect by simply being able to setup building/repairing rates for units/turrets on your planetary controller. If you want to keep galaxy caps then make it so that the overall galaxy rate (sum of the rates of all the planetary controllers) cannot exceed X, increasable by tech research.
Bonus point: it makes it easier to block cheese tactics. Now the A.I. has a single, very big, very slow target to kill to be able to neutralize the tactic, AND you can't use nearby planets to keep it going.


Now, your idea of an advisor... perhaps a science advisor that is recommending you build X and Y type ships because the AI is predominantly building A and B ships is interesting.  I'm afraid it might end up being bad advice because perhaps the player just hasn't seen enough AI ships yet or maybe those ships aren't the ones the player should be worried about, but I think it's worth exploring for post-fun-point.  Any suggestions on how to implement?

The game already has a huge amount of statistics (or at least the first game had them, I'm assuming the second one has retained them?). You can use those as a starting point. E.g. "the most numerous hull/weapon type we've seen so far is X, the one which inflicted to us the most overall damage is Y" style of suggestions. Basically a way of making those statistics more readable. Maybe with a "confidence rating" based on how big the observed sample is.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: BadgerBadger on April 30, 2018, 07:08:22 PM
Some of the stats you are looking for are already collected in the game, we just don't have a UI yet for displaying it.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: WolfWhiteFire on April 30, 2018, 07:51:40 PM
Sorry if you may have answered this somewhere else, but with the heavy focus on modding, do you plan on having steam workshop for this game?

Probably not; it seems like a really clunky system from what little I've seen of it, and we want to support GOG folks equally. If there's a C# api for it and a lot of demand, then we might consider it. The C# bindings from valve themselves are useless; they don't even compile. There are various wrappers with c# apis on the unity asset store and on github, but I can't recall if there was one for workshop.
Might not be viable, but what about a special launcher or something similar that can easily be installed and allows easy and universal access to mods for your games that are posted on the launcher? It might be too much expense and manpower, especially with the current conditions of the company, I don't know if there is a cheap way to do it, but even if it isn't for a while (even a few years), a lot of people seem interested in something like that eventually, for both modders and mod-users, and over time it may help the modding community since it wouldn't require either modders designing an easy way to download their mods or mod-users going through the hassle of manually installing them. Probably not very viable currently though, if ever, perhaps something for the modders themselves to eventually design if they are interested enough to do so.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: .hawk. on April 30, 2018, 09:34:42 PM
The problem with this removing civilian units like that from the game is that it isn't clear how much logistics that drops out of the game. (see comment from .hawk.)  And then trying to figure out a new system to give the same depth to replace them with would be a gamble.

Well to be fair, no one else piped up and agreed so I could be in the minority :) Anyway, my logistics argument was more aimed at having to worry about both end of the map due to a stationary king and not having ship builders in your fleet ball. I would use a slightly different argument in favor of engineers and rebuilders.

And I am definitely in the pro-engineer camp. They are a globally finite resource and you can face tough decisions on where to place them and how to use them. At higher difficulties in AIWC it seemed that the game was balanced in having to use both them and rebuilders wisely. I'm not arguing that they were perfect. Without some micro they could either suicide or do nothing depending on move order but their placement in the galaxy adds a layer of strategic depth and I think that is a good thing. I'm sure a superior alternative could be thought up and implemented but both are a known quantity that worked in a great game and , as you said, therefore probably the best option to go with at least initially. If an alternative is eventually chosen, I hope its not a bland one that just exists on every planet and works the same way everywhere.

And we found it that it didn't necessarily block those cheese tactics since the planetary controller was rebuilding turrets and causing the attacking AI to keep retreating to destroy them.

Your Flagships too when retaking a planet you had turrets on initially. Kind of funny the first time I saw it.

Engineers and rebuilders have one and only one logistic effect: they speed up the building/repairing of your mobile/immobile units but also put more strain on your economy the more of them you use.

Do you feel there shouldn't be a cost to repairing or speeding up unit build time or that its just too high in AIWC? Metal did feel more sparse in AIWC but as a result it felt more valuable. You could wreck your economy pretty quick if you tried to speed up everything... but that's part of the point I'm trying to make with this wall of text. Both their placement and their use were options that, when used wisely, could let the player live to fight another day when facing tough odds. When used poorly it could leave you weak at exactly the wrong time.

In my opinion, it was one of many meaningful player decisions that could make or break your game. That it added another layer of strategy and real depth. This is not to say "know" I am right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. The above is part of what one guy thinks is missing from the sequel.
 
Not the units themselves necessarily, but the different aspects of the game they impact though decisions the player makes.


Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: chemical_art on April 30, 2018, 09:40:15 PM
Engineers actually were a vital part of the logistics aspect of playing AIW 1. The whole point of getting them was so that you could build things faster with greater ease, driven to its logical end with the III's which could teleport.

If there is a desire to increase the impact of logistics bring them back and turn down construction speed of factories / other construction accordingly.

Addendum: However, their management was an issue now that I think of it. If there was ever a need for a "budget" menu, this would be where it would be needed. If I could budget "2 MK I engineers here, remove a MK II here..." from a larger menu so I don't have to dance to every planet to set it up that would be great.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on April 30, 2018, 09:44:33 PM
Sorry if you may have answered this somewhere else, but with the heavy focus on modding, do you plan on having steam workshop for this game?

Probably not; it seems like a really clunky system from what little I've seen of it, and we want to support GOG folks equally. If there's a C# api for it and a lot of demand, then we might consider it. The C# bindings from valve themselves are useless; they don't even compile. There are various wrappers with c# apis on the unity asset store and on github, but I can't recall if there was one for workshop.
Might not be viable, but what about a special launcher or something similar that can easily be installed and allows easy and universal access to mods for your games that are posted on the launcher? It might be too much expense and manpower, especially with the current conditions of the company, I don't know if there is a cheap way to do it, but even if it isn't for a while (even a few years), a lot of people seem interested in something like that eventually, for both modders and mod-users, and over time it may help the modding community since it wouldn't require either modders designing an easy way to download their mods or mod-users going through the hassle of manually installing them. Probably not very viable currently though, if ever, perhaps something for the modders themselves to eventually design if they are interested enough to do so.

There's a lot that goes into that, and it's very far out of scope right now, but you never know what the future might hold; particularly if the game does well.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Magnus on May 01, 2018, 02:05:12 AM

Do you feel there shouldn't be a cost to repairing or speeding up unit build time or that its just too high in AIWC? Metal did feel more sparse in AIWC but as a result it felt more valuable. You could wreck your economy pretty quick if you tried to speed up everything... but that's part of the point I'm trying to make with this wall of text. Both their placement and their use were options that, when used wisely, could let the player live to fight another day when facing tough odds. When used poorly it could leave you weak at exactly the wrong time.

In my opinion, it was one of many meaningful player decisions that could make or break your game. That it added another layer of strategy and real depth. This is not to say "know" I am right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. The above is part of what one guy thinks is missing from the sequel.
 
Not the units themselves necessarily, but the different aspects of the game they impact though decisions the player makes.

I absolutely agree with you, the proper placement of engineers and rebuilders is critical from a logistic standpoint and so is the choice of how much and where you want to speed up queues. But what you're really doing is not so much building units but allocating more or less resources to build/repair queues on different planets.
Apart from the problem of the preference system to rebuild engineers and rebuilders getting frozen in combat, which forces annoying micromanagement by rebuilding them yourselves and also allows "cheating" by building them on nearby planets after your command station is gone, there's also the issue of being able to efficiently relocate them when needed. You need to track them down and move/scrap them on every planet until you've "freed" enough of them to rebuild the needed number on the "new" frontier planet. It's annoying.

Above all, there's the nightmare micromanagement of moving your rebuilders around after your defense is gone just to keep repairing turrets and keeping the A.I. fleet pinned down, which makes zero logical sense and should never be allowed to happen. It just makes the A.I. look incredibly dumb.

IMO, being able to assign "build rates" to planetary constructors and/or unit producers solves the problem in a much more elegant fashion. The need for proper allocation is kept if you establish a galaxy-wide cap on rate increases, and the fact you can't send them in from other planets makes defending your building units far more critical AND makes the AI target programming a lot easier since it will nearly always make sense for the A.I. units to beeline for your constructors, take them out, then worry about mopping up what's left.
It will make the game significantly harder on average, but then, I'm guessing there's a general rebalance pass needed anyway, so...
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Draco18s on May 01, 2018, 02:16:18 AM
Hmmm...
I may start pencil-napkin something for astro trains in AIW2.
I really want them to work.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: chemical_art on May 01, 2018, 02:37:56 AM
So going really meta about this, there should be *something* of a resource/tech/budget that allows faster construction of things. It provides a another avenue of the player toolkit that isn't direct combat. Ideally it would reduce micro compared to AIW 1, but it is not absolutely necessary to eliminate it if that alone is the reason why we can't have it.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: Magnus on May 01, 2018, 03:52:01 AM
If I might suggest a solution which to me looks simple, on paper (I'm assuming after the initial release of the pivot we'll basically be at "AI WAR 1, except with the new engine and nearly nothing from the expansions").

Introduce another setting for command stations and all unit builders. This is the production rate speedup factor. Shouldn't be difficult even from an UI point of view, all you need is a new button.

Whenever you left click on the button the speed of that producer goes up by a factor of 100%. So you start at X1 and with every click you go to X2, X3 etc. Right click goes down by a factor, up to the minimum of X1 base speed.

Command stations, in addition to building what they can already build, also automatically rebuild remains on their planet. Essentially they merge the old command station and remain rebuilder functionality, by taking on one of the characteristics of the new planet controllers.

You have an overall galaxy cap on speedup factors which you can assign to the various stations/builders. Let's say you have e.g. a galaxy wide cap of +10; you can:


The galaxy cap can be increased by tech research. E.G. rank 1 = total cap +10, rank 2 is +20, rank 3 is + 30.

Advantages I can see:


Disadvantages I can see:


There might also be potential troubling interactions between this and the usurpers, if they stay in the game? I guess it depends on how they end up working.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: TheVampire100 on June 02, 2018, 07:36:34 AM
Just a little poke to ask if the next patch will take much longer time.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on June 04, 2018, 10:03:32 AM
Just a little poke to ask if the next patch will take much longer time.

Thanks for asking!  So, here's basically where we are right now:

1. The first two waves (out of five) for the pivot are done.

2. That said, things don't "feel right" in the gameplay/balance department yet, mainly to do with seeding and some things like FRD and whatnot.

3. So with that in mind, and early feedback from Badger as well, Keith has been going in and playing some AIWC, then playing some AIW2, noting differences, and making changes.

4. Working on #3 above delays wave three of the pivot, necessarily, but we all agree that it's better to have "smaller and fun" than "all the stuff but not fun yet."

5. We don't have any overall schedule changes in terms of when we plan to go to Early Access (July) or when we plan to hit 1.0 (October), and all the pivots parts are still something we plan to have pre-1.0.  However, about half of the content from waves 3-5 of the pivot are things we plan to push to during EA so that we can focus on polish instead pre-EA.

6. How exactly much longer it will take Keith on #3 above is not exactly certain at this point, since it is basically an iterative "fix and then review" process and gets at "feel" rather than something concrete.  You might think "just do it exactly the same as before" and that's that, but things like the galaxy seeding rules and AI threading are different enough that it's like translating from English to Japanese. 

If you don't know much about Japanese, basically it has a lot of ways to express complex emotions and thoughts that are hard or impossible to describe in English.  AIWC is English in this analogy, so basically I'm saying that even though the translation is possible to do directly, a Japanese speaker would be pretty unenthused by a direct English "port" of some poem.  It wouldn't seem very poetic by Japanese standards, and would lose a lot of what makes Japanese awesome.  That's kind of what we run into porting AIWC to AIW2, mostly in the area of map seeding and AI. 

The split from single-threaded to multithreaded is one of those big areas, for instance.  In a single-threaded environment, everything happens in an order you can count on.  In a multithreaded environment, things happen in some sort of crazy unknowable and inconsistent order, but you still need to come up with the same results every time, deterministically, so that desyncs don't happen in multiplayer.  We have that working, and have for well over a year and a half now, but it makes the translation from AIWC to AIW2 slightly interpretive in terms of how it's done.

My understanding is that we're getting there, but I'm not sure how long it will be exactly before we're ready to show that off to you as the next version of the game.  It might be 1-2 more weeks, but after that we should start having multiple-a-week releases again.

7. One reason that the release notes have been so static is that I've been on vacation for the last week.  It was long-planned and already paid for, and time off was good.  I don't like to announce my vacations on the internet in advance, though, for privacy/security reasons.  Anyway, now I'm back to get working on art and UI and all that again, though, on my end.  Plenty needs to be done there before we hit EA, too.

---

That long response probably tells you both more and less than what you wanted to know. ;)
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: TheVampire100 on June 07, 2018, 04:02:40 AM
Okay, thanks for the very detailed answer.
Title: Re: Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!
Post by: x4000 on June 11, 2018, 08:31:13 PM
No problem.  It's coming along, at least. :)