General Category > Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine

Release Date now Oct 21st, next beta wave later, subtractive design.

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I wish more devs (and managers...) did that kind of self-assessment.  Health, sanity and work-life balance are really the foundations of productivity.

Looking forward to how this all turns out, good luck!

I really hope the game will be a huge success for you. It's obvious that you put a lot of effort into it. I always wondered what "real" Arcen 4X game would look like. And I'm still curious and will buy the game. Don't care if I have to wait another month or two. On the other hand, delaying the game by another month must be quite expensive for you, money wise.

I really appreciate it, both of you.

The self-assessment kind of cuts both ways.  It's good to do, but it can also lead to paralysis sometimes.  Sometimes I am doing too much assessment, other times too little.  One of the hardest things about my job is that there's nothing I can look to and go "ah yes, that's the established way to do that thing."  Each time we do a new game, we're doing something that doesn't follow the patterns of other games, and so I have to make up a lot of it fresh as I go.

In terms of the expense of the delay, yep, it definitely does stretch things.  We're okay, but I don't like running the bank account so low -- in particular after past events, I really value having a rainy day fun.  Heck, it's that sort of rainy day fund that has let us do all these delays in the first place.  Otherwise it would have been either layoffs or just rushing the game out anyway, or who knows.  Options go away fast, then.

Shrugging Khan:
Spoilered: Negativity and subjectivity.
Avoidance is advised.
Spoiler for Hiden: It seems to me this tendency towards subtractive design is not so much an actual design choice but an emergency measure to get the game into playable shape ASAP, by cutting off all the troublesome bits and limiting it to those parts that already mostly work (with the one addition of the new event system). Certainly simplified, and I honestly doubt that there isn't some dumbing down done here. At least I recall the original idea of SBR being various complex systems interacting, not just a stack of premade events being ticked off with a fairly limited city-building affair around it. The game seems to generally become more and more game-y (has anyone found a better term for this yet?) lately. There's plenty of people who like that, of course - smooth, simple gameplay is appreciated by many. But I'm reading less and less about the natural systems that originally sounded good about SBR (climate, geography, diplomacy), while seeing an increase in abstract systems that seem to be there just to make the game playable (territories, events, removal of various systems). Playability is somewhat important, yes, of course. And it's my particular preferences that make these changes seem so bad, while most players will welcome them. But still - it feels to me that this is increasingly a rush job with much of the original vision being dropped. Still better than an unfinished, unplayable game and Arcen with a tarnished reputation and more layoffs, absolutely. But gah! What a waste of potential!Negativity has been vented. Proceed.

I definitely can say that this isn't a rush job at all.  If anything it's the opposite.  Look at how long it has been since the last round of beta players: two months or so!  Goodness that is a huge gap for us.  It's because I've been taking an enormous amount of time and care with this.

One thing that probably bites me in the butt to some extent in terms of things seeming like they are changing super rapidly is that I don't tend to talk about things I'm not sure about.  A lot of what is happening now has been under consideration since early July.  But if I had said that then, then people freak out about the potential changes. 

I also considered many MANY other models in that same timeframe, so it's not like I would have picked this one in particular to tell you about had I been more chatty at the time.  And this model itself has evolved a whole lot over time, too.  For a long period, there were a lot of ideas evolving in parallel, and many of them were then getting constantly thrown out and redone, partly because of how they interact with other systems.

So in some senses, there is a flurry of new design now, in the short term -- becasuse all of the individual systems have evolved enough that I can actually put final-ish designs down for each one.  Until that point is reached, then for a game of this complexity it's really hard to balance stuff against other stuff because all the variables are changing all the time.  So finding 90% of my favorite approach to each system that didn't seem to clash with other systems has been my task since July.  And then more recently my task has been to then turn those into actual specs, and finish up those critical last 10%s on each aspect so that each thing properly integrates.

In terms of the events system, I don't think you really understand that yet, which is quite reasonable.  I think you'll find it very interesting, though, and that it gives a lot more to diplomacy than has been had in the past.  And in a much more interesting way.  The proof is in the pudding with that one, so mainly I'd just wait a few weeks and see what you think then.  But it's definitely not a simpler approach than the stuff we started with.  It's actually substantially more complex, BUT it is way simpler per unit of output we get from it.  So we're able to get a lot more output, which was part of the original goal.  These events actually play into things and create way more emergence than was ever possible before.

As far as the climate stuff, that was just a mechanic I didn't like.  Simple as that.  I've been keeping that for months and months, but I knew as far back as April that I didn't like it.  I was keeping it to basically have it as a tick mark on the back of the box, so to speak.  I'm not a fan of just doing things for that reason, though, and so finally after a long time hating that feature I had enough.  I've made the mistake in the past of trying to make games be all things to all people, and thus having them sometimes come out too watered down in each specific area.  This game engine just isn't oriented around geographical manipulation on the scale that would be interesting (aka the very granular grids of land that you get in SimCity 4 that you can raise and lower, etc), so that's just not something that works well here.  That's my opinion, anyhow.

As far as territories go, those were in the original design specs for Cretaceous, back before Bionic Dues, which was my first move toward citybuilding/4X.  And then they were in the early drafts of this game, too.  But I moved away from that for a variety of reasons, mainly not knowing how to visually represent them.  Once I finally figured out a way to bring those back, and saw the problems that the game had when it did NOT have them, I was really overjoyed to be able to bring back that original idea and get back to what I wanted in the first place as well as solve the problems with things like city borders, attack ranges, etc, all in one.

I can tell you unequivocably that the game is closer now to the original vision than it ever has been before.  And the next wave of changes brings it even closer there.  I wanted something that was like SimCity meets Risk meets Dwarf Fortress, certainly with a number of Civilization influences as well.  That's what is able to come about thanks to this in a lot of respects.

By the way: the quickest way to explain events is basically that they are a way of modeling social interactions/happenings.  It's able to feed off of the citybuilding stuff, and then it also feeds back into it as well as itself in various ways.  For instance now you have the concept of expatriates and prisoners being added to the game.  And if you run low on prisons, then various things happen, etc.  All of that stuff is events.  But rather than just having really static things, or really numerical-only things happen as a result of (for instance) prison capacity being too low, this lets us have unbridled creativity with whatever we want to model as a result of that.  Not only that, but it makes it so that your methods of dealing with the problem are a lot more interesting and complex than just "suffer or build more prisons."  What are your methods of dealing with it?  Well that depends partly on which "prison problem" events are arriving based on the context of what is going on.

In other words, this just got incredibly, vastly more emergent.  Way more than ever before.  We already have a city services level of emergence, but now there's a social layer as well that's being added on.

And the relationship you have with the planet is becoming similarly more complex: rather than just the "number goes up or down" relationship of planet rage and appeasement, you get something that has more character and complexity.  And which has a numeric underpinning, sure, but still way more involved and interesting.

All this part is actually drifting from the original vision in that it's way more complex of a system than I ever thought I'd be able to have.  Or that I'd be able to manage.  I did for a while consider a sort of halfway solution with the "storylines," where your criticisms would have been a lot more valid.  But as it stands things are actually better than ever here.

Cheers.  ;D


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