Author Topic: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates  (Read 4863 times)

Offline x4000

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About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« on: June 25, 2014, 12:49:07 PM »
Original: http://arcengames.com/about-the-recent-schedule-and-tlf-updates/

A really great question from a recent post:
Hi Chris – Is the last federation pretty much the final product now? Unless I’ve missed something the last update was June 6th to 1.24 -25
Before that you were changing every two or three days. Thanks

I've posted a few notes about this in the Off Topic section of our forums, and I think some bits on the TLF forum as well, but not everybody sees every post, and I didn't ever collect everything in one place.  So here we go!

What's Been Going On Lately?

The Last Federation is not the final product any more than AI War is, in the sense that those games are intended to evolve over years.  Others like Skyward Collapse and Bionic Dues are the final product, but these two -- AI War and TLF -- are currently ones that we consider in active long-term development.
The lack of updates on TLF has been due to a number of factors lately.

Some have just been scheduling things with trying to make sure that our other projects don't languish -- for instance, there's not enough art for TLF to be working on, so I have to get design stuff in place well enough for Blue to be working on art for Spectral Empire, even though I'm not going to be doing heavy design there for a little while, and Keith won't be starting coding there until early July.  Since right now I'm the sole programmer on TLF, that means that sometimes I have to set that aside to help manage things with the other projects, since I'm also the designer and producer on all of them.

Another issue was some personal stuff that came up and impacted me for a week and a half or so there in a major way, so that set me back in general.

Another factor has been the website redesign, as well as the (still in progress) work on redoing our site store.  That takes an amazing amount of time, but it's been something we've sorely needed for a couple of years now.  Now was finally a time where I felt like I had enough breathing room to do it (there's always other stuff to be done with games, but if I never set aside time to work on these other side things then they simply never get done -- I've been really wanting to do this site redesign since something like 2012, because Joomla really wasn't working out for us).

Another factor is that I've been trying to work on better steamworks integration for our games, particularly for linux.  TLF's steam achievements don't work on linux, and I also want to get steam cloud support on our steam games in general.  Once I get that working, then I want to get Valley 1 and 2, Skyward Collapse, and Shattered Haven all ported to linux.  Tidalis will remain PC and Mac only, and AI War's linux port will come after 8.0 comes out in August.  So that one will be more delayed.

Yet another factor is that I'm trying to plan an easier way to install expansion packs for our games, without requiring an actual installer.  "Just unzip into your main game folder" works for windows machines, but on OSX and possibly linux there is not a merge-folders-when-unzipping natural behavior.  Instead it just blows away entire folders, which is, ah, a big problem.   It's not remotely insurmountable, though, as our normal in-game updater already solves that.  So I just want to make a form of expansion-unpacker that more or less does the same thing.  This will be important for our non-steam non-windows customers coming up when with the TLF expansion, as well as with our other games that have existing expansions when we do updated packages for them that include other OSes, etc.

And lastly, when it comes to the actual updates to TLF itself, the time that I do have for that has been temporarily spent on the expansion.  Some of that actually has gone to other changes to the base game, but there are substantial changes to underlying systems there, and so I want to make sure and get all of that in at once, and then do those as a beta update rather than an official update so that we can have a set runthrough of testing all at once rather than having to go back and forth between beta and official updates a lot, or stay in beta versions for a long time.

What Will The TLF Update Schedule Be Like In The Future?

As with AI War, that's really going to vary depending on the time period.  There were some periods in the history of AI War where we went 6+ months without an update because it was in good shape and we were working on other things.  Then we came back into periods with updates every 2-3 days for a month or two.  And then many other extended periods with a release every 1-1.5 weeks or so.  That's the current expectation for TLF from our end, given the level of interest the game has had.

When the TLF expansion comes out into its beta form, which should be within 2 weeks (I said that before, I know, but some other stuff came up as you note above -- apologies, that usually does not happen), then expect a flurry of updates every 2-3 days again for a while.  Focusing both on tweaking and balancing the expansion content, as well as making generalized improvements to the base game.  When the expansion launches officially, most likely in August, then the base game will be considered 2.0 alongside the new expansion's release version.

After that... right now it's too early to say, but I'm expecting that we'll likely be in a period of releases every 1-1.5 weeks for a while, as we'll be working on Spectral Empire in the main.  Assuming interest remains high in TLF, then at some point we'll work on a second expansion for TLF, and during a month or so period there we'd see heavy development again with tons of updates to both the base game and then of course work on the expansion.  If you look back at the history of AI War updates, you can see that's more or less how it works out.

Completely as an aside, we tried the approach of not doing expansions and just doing tons of free updates to the base game with Valley 1.  Valley 1 sold very well at the start, but partly because of our persistent post-release work without any sort of paid additions, we're still very much in the negative for having made that game (aka, it cost us a hundred-ish thousand dollars more to make than we have made selling it).  With AI War, we've been able to balance things out more, having it be very profitable on an ongoing basis (5 years now!) partly thanks to the expansions, while at the same time using that to help fund updates to the base game, free for everyone, all through that time.  And frankly that covered the losses we took on other titles that were not financial successes -- it let us have a bit more freedom to experiment.  Some of which led to great results, and some of which led to results that the market at least deemed not as great.

Anyway, so that's our update model and the reasoning behind it, which is all super familiar to long-time followers of AI War.  Any questions, always feel free to ask!
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Offline nas1m

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2014, 01:59:24 PM »
Thanks for the writeup Chris! I was starting to ask myself what is going on ;).

If you don't mind another question: Is there any reason that you have not commented on the (as i see it) well-grounded criticisms uttered in various threads regarding the TLF base game (e.g. Unrecoverably volatile RCI values, the always working "recipe" to win the game found by GC13, serious bugs (e.g. Ship upgrades no longer unlocking, for more see e.g. my signature) etc.)?

Always seemed like the stuff you usually adressed more sooner than later in the past - especially with regards to the "arms-race" between you guys and players having "solved" the game...

Any news on when/if we might see some fixes/improvements to these issues?
Some of these are in dire need of attention imho...

And nice new website BTW :D.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 02:02:16 PM by nas1m »
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Offline x4000

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2014, 02:13:02 PM »
To be honest, I have not yet read the threads.  Not because I don't intend to, but because my head only has so much "RAM," so to speak. ;)

Pretty much all the stuff that I am aware of is either reasonably niche or is something that is going to take more extended testing.

1. I've not read the recipe for winning yet, but it's something that only people who have found that know, so it's not something that I feel like is drop-everything, though I do want to get to that soon.
2. With the volatile RCI values, that's going to take some general testing and back and forth, and to some extent that is kind of intended.  Not as extreme as it sounds like is happening sometimes, but that's going to take some hunting.
3. With the extra ships not unlocking, that's annoying, but there are so many ships at the start that it's not a major blocker.  It is on my list for looking at for the next patch, though.
4. The Evucks thing is another unusual case (them being the last race is not always a given), and is something I do need to look at the numbers for.
5. And the auto-pause thing is something that is going to be a mild chore to add, and something I'm not likely to do until the new expansion is in beta.  It seems like enough people are interested in it that it's worth doing, but still.  Actually, I just now finally thought of a less-intensive way to do that on the coding side.  I had kind of been waiting for an epiphany on that front, actually.

Anyway, right now there are a LOT of under-the-hood changes in the next version that relate largely to the expansion, and the above sort of things I judged to be of low enough significance that I don't want to inflict the issues that may arise from those other underlying expansion changes on everyone in order to rush out a fix there.

That's the one downside of working on a large feature when that happens: you lose the ability to do quick patches for other stuff, unless you push out the large feature half-finished.  Since nobody has the expansion yet, the half-finished bit doesn't matter, but as with any large injection of code we wind up with the potential for collateral damage, hence my desire to do a beta branch temporarily instead of going straight to official with the next build to come.

Hope that makes sense. :)
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Offline nas1m

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2014, 02:31:52 PM »
Thanks for the reply :).

EDIT:
With all due respect: you should.
There is some pretty disconcerting stuff in these threads that might surprise you - especially with regard to how deep and replayable the game actually is :-/...

Don't want to do too much typing since I am on vacation and chained to my phone for Internet access, but:
- the general theme of the RCI criticisms seems to that the impact of current events makes deliberate manipulation a chore due to some differences in order of magnitude for what events cause and for how long the player has to dispatch to change them
-- also the ability to hurt the RCI values of a planet is missed by some
-- General opaqueness is another issue
- aside from that too many games still play out too samey (see the "is the solar system a boring place?" thread). The missing ship unlocks add their part by significantly reducing combat variety
-please reduce the Evuck chrystal City multiplier - it hurts too much :)

More once i am back home - good to know you will be back at the game soon!
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 02:38:34 PM by nas1m »
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Offline x4000

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2014, 02:37:35 PM »
All makes sense, thanks.  Hope you are enjoying vacation -- France, I think it was?
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Offline nas1m

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2014, 02:40:41 PM »
All makes sense, thanks.  Hope you are enjoying vacation -- France, I think it was?
The french riviera, yes :D.

Not to push you or anything: but please make sure to read my edit in my last post.
Now i will stop whining - promise ;).
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Offline MaskityMask

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2014, 02:42:09 PM »
We are allowed to ask questions? Yay!

I'm bit confused about some changes that you guys have made based on feed back ._. Mainly the ones based on giving player more options

I mean, for example, anti federation alliances. In original version they were something you have to get rid of, but now you can attempt to dissolve them without wiping out races. But, umm... Why?  Weren't they supposed to be a challenge?

The "If members hate each other, the alliance shatters" does make sense and I'm always up for changes that make sense, but it makes them really toothless. Hell, I'm pretty sure enemies can be alliance with each other as long they hate third party more. Alliance of independent states isn't even much of alliance, its group of races who want to remain independent who ally with each other to remain independent. So do they even need to like each other much? Though, in case of solar axis pact it makes sense that it won't be born if both races hate each other as it is pretty much bad guy alliance,(and game becomes really darn hard if two war like races join the pact, so its fair they won't create axis pact if they want to kill each other) but it doesn't make sense with some of other alliances.

I thought fear empire was supposed to be the "evil" alliance. I mean, its pretty much always formed by evil race that has wiped out 3 other races. So umm, why does it dissolve on final planet now? I mean, by time you get rid of four planets, fear empire hates hydrals and federation members so much that you probably can't recruit them anyway, and why would you want them to join, they genocided 3 other species. Plus its nicer narrative, the federation vs the evil empire, but it just dissolves on final planet so.. Yeah, I guess it does make sense that if empire become too weak they break up, but if you really want to allow player to recruit fear empire race... I dunno, maybe something like, if fear empire is down to one planet and has lost homeworld, they dissolve and have special condition that allows you to make them join federation regardless of how much everyone dislikes them?*shrugs*

Thoraxian protectorate is also completely useless now since everyone hates thoraxians easily so it always dissolves upon being born. Which again doesn't make much sense, thoarixan protectorate already has dissolving condition of Thoraxians being eliminated, so why does it need another condition for that? Besides, protectorate is about races being afraid of federation and submitting to thoraxians for protection so why would they dissolve immediately after joining?

Besides, if fear empire can be dissolved, why can't smuggler empire be dissolved? .-. I don't get it. Though I guess it does add something unique to alliances besides their birth conditions. I mean, currently only fear empire has unique feature it, that being that non federation members start to hate federation over the time due to being weary of war, but other alliances are pretty much same and don't have much flavor to them.

Anyway, my point was that some of player feedback and response to give them more options kinda makes things too easy or makes some of features lose their flavor. Anti federation alliances aren't much of threat now since usually they are formed by war like races and those races easily dislike each other due to attacking each other. And speaking of flavor, now that evucs don't do igniting gas giant until they are on final planet, they never do it since they don't always have gas giant being their final planet. I guess it might help if they would always start on gas giant, but well, they don't. Anyway, I don't know why the rule was changed, but previously there was hurry to make evucs stop whenever countdown started which gave nice alarming feeling of "Shit got real". Besides, they usually got their planet conquered before blowing it up(I've only once seen them blowing it up on game where I let them and that was on old version where ground combat took forever due to ships being in orbit forever) so I'm not really sure if there was any harm to it. I kinda forgot what I wanted to ask about though, sorry about that got sidetracked by my wondering about changes to anti federation alliances and I kinda forgot what was the thing about player feedback I wanted to ask about ^_^;

...Oh, I do have another question though:

How are we supposed to do androns only alive achievement since androns never conquer planets? Use acutian planetcracker on everything combined with evuc gas giant igniting?

Oh and umm, since you guys talked about rci values... Why does rci value federation joining condition require races to like you? I mean, its already up to luck which of four values(if any of them) get down to -2000, but since they have to like you as well, you can't influence rci values or they hate you for sabotaging them.

...Ah, sorry for long post ^_^; And sorry if its... Annoying, there are things that have bugged me in my few previous playthroughs when I finally completed game on all first race options
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 02:52:28 PM by MaskityMask »

Offline ptarth

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2014, 05:12:39 PM »
  • A word of note about the brevity of Arcen comments: It takes a long time to answer questions in an official manner. Nonofficial comments are faster, but are more prone to being misinterpreted (See recent GOG 'discussion'). That time that sometimes better spent on working.
  • My perspective on anti-federation alliances - They are mostly working. Some small tweaks would help, but the ratio of how much it would improve the game versus how much time it would take to fix it is not favorable for it being addressed soon.
  • Same is true for achievements.
Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline x4000

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2014, 08:18:20 PM »
EDIT:
With all due respect: you should.
There is some pretty disconcerting stuff in these threads that might surprise you - especially with regard to how deep and replayable the game actually is :-/...

- the general theme of the RCI criticisms seems to that the impact of current events makes deliberate manipulation a chore due to some differences in order of magnitude for what events cause and for how long the player has to dispatch to change them

I'm strongly tempted to take away the ability to dispatch to change them, frankly.  These were never really intended to be something you could just sit there and dispatch to manipulate.  We added that belatedly as an option, thinking "more options are good," but intentionally made it a really underpowered thing because being too powerful would really negate the whole impact of RCI.

I'm not jumping right on making changes here because a solution is not really obvious to me.

-- also the ability to hurt the RCI values of a planet is missed by some

Which options are being referred to that are not there?  Maybe I am just having a blank, but I don't recall taking away any options there.

-- General opaqueness is another issue

That's one of those things that is just a gradual thing that is going to have to be worked on over time, too.  Frankly SimCity was my model, and so having perfect visibility into everything wasn't my goal for players.  In other words, I don't really want players to know the formulas to try to divine perfect results or something.  But at the same time, having enough detail to actually make decisions is also important.  I think that we are largely in that ballpark in the most important areas, except where the super hardcore grognards are going to kind of disagree with the philosophy in general.

Not to say that there aren't things to make more clear, because there are.  But I wouldn't call it an endemic problem at this point -- once that was the case, because we erred too much on the SimCity side I guess.

- aside from that too many games still play out too samey (see the "is the solar system a boring place?" thread). The missing ship unlocks add their part by significantly reducing combat variety

The ship unlocks will be quick, but in terms of the rest that's again something I'm mulling.  Measure twice, cut once.

It's not obvious to me what to do to encourage variety beyond a lot of what is already going on.  Typically variety is achieved by restricting or adding options in some ways.  Right now your flexibility is so extreme that even though the situations of the planets can vary hugely, you can massage it back into a semblance of what you want.  The Ark and The Mire were intended to add an extra element of randomness, and so were a number of other things dating way back from the start.

The problem with reducing options is that generally people freak out about that sort of thing, so I can't just make that a generalized change.  It would probably need to be some sort of Advanced Start option to start with a more complex situation that restricts you more.  Basically that sort of mode would be a "take the kid gloves off, and punish me please" sort of mode, where advanced players get into that once they start feeling like the base game is too samey.

Really, that's the crux of the issue to me: the first few times you play through the game are fine, in my opinion, which is why I'm not rushing around more.  But once players want to start digging more and more into the details, then things can get murkier.  With AI War, we sacrificed any semblance of approachability by catering only to the super hardcore crowd.  That is fine to a point, because that serves that game really well.  But that would be fundamentally changing the nature of this game.  Which, again, is fine so long as it is an OPTION that people can graduate to once they get used to the more vanilla approaches.  Kind of like all the various minor factions and whatnot in AI War, where new players typically don't turn all those on unless they are feeling suicidal.

Anyway, none of those things are what I'd call 2-3 day fixes, and I'm loathe to run at it with a series of small bandaids at this point, because I believe the first aim of the game -- being fun for several playthroughs, in particular the first -- would be severely hampered by that.  The second aim of the game, of providing AI War levels of replayability, is something that deserves a lot of attention as well, but it's the sort of issue that can only really even be approached once you have sufficient numbers of players with dozens of hours in it.  We're hitting that point now, and the feedback there is really useful, but it's something I have to kind of sift through and try to come up with a good solution for rather than doing like we did in Valley 1 and just chewing through attempt after attempt.

-please reduce the Evuck chrystal City multiplier - it hurts too much :)

Yeah, that is understood. :)


We are allowed to ask questions? Yay!

Always!  I apologize for not always being active in every thread or being able to answer everything, but you guys outnumber us about 25,000 to 1.  Not on the forums, thankfully -- here it's more like 500:1. ;)

Anyway, if there are particular questions that a lot of people all want to know the answer to and that I am simply missing for whatever reason, then potentially a thread could be made where I weekly answer the top 10 questions from the community or something.  Not that that's the only time I'll answer questions or anything, but that would be one thing that would help make it so that if in the normal course of things I don't miss anything too critical in that regard.

I'm bit confused about some changes that you guys have made based on feed back ._. Mainly the ones based on giving player more options

I mean, for example, anti federation alliances. In original version they were something you have to get rid of, but now you can attempt to dissolve them without wiping out races. But, umm... Why?  Weren't they supposed to be a challenge?

The "If members hate each other, the alliance shatters" does make sense and I'm always up for changes that make sense, but it makes them really toothless. Hell, I'm pretty sure enemies can be alliance with each other as long they hate third party more. Alliance of independent states isn't even much of alliance, its group of races who want to remain independent who ally with each other to remain independent. So do they even need to like each other much? Though, in case of solar axis pact it makes sense that it won't be born if both races hate each other as it is pretty much bad guy alliance,(and game becomes really darn hard if two war like races join the pact, so its fair they won't create axis pact if they want to kill each other) but it doesn't make sense with some of other alliances.

I thought fear empire was supposed to be the "evil" alliance. I mean, its pretty much always formed by evil race that has wiped out 3 other races. So umm, why does it dissolve on final planet now? I mean, by time you get rid of four planets, fear empire hates hydrals and federation members so much that you probably can't recruit them anyway, and why would you want them to join, they genocided 3 other species. Plus its nicer narrative, the federation vs the evil empire, but it just dissolves on final planet so.. Yeah, I guess it does make sense that if empire become too weak they break up, but if you really want to allow player to recruit fear empire race... I dunno, maybe something like, if fear empire is down to one planet and has lost homeworld, they dissolve and have special condition that allows you to make them join federation regardless of how much everyone dislikes them?*shrugs*

Thoraxian protectorate is also completely useless now since everyone hates thoraxians easily so it always dissolves upon being born. Which again doesn't make much sense, thoarixan protectorate already has dissolving condition of Thoraxians being eliminated, so why does it need another condition for that? Besides, protectorate is about races being afraid of federation and submitting to thoraxians for protection so why would they dissolve immediately after joining?

Besides, if fear empire can be dissolved, why can't smuggler empire be dissolved? .-. I don't get it. Though I guess it does add something unique to alliances besides their birth conditions. I mean, currently only fear empire has unique feature it, that being that non federation members start to hate federation over the time due to being weary of war, but other alliances are pretty much same and don't have much flavor to them.

Yes, definitely they were supposed to be a challenge, and they still are in my view, although there are loopholes as you noted.  It's a tricky balancing act, because before it was a sort of hammer that could hit you in the face without warning, and then if you were trying to have lots of races in the federation, you were just plain plum out of luck.  It may be that there should be an advanced option to make them never dissolve or something, I'm not sure.

For the fear empire, I believe that those always dissolved the way that they do now, but I wouldn't swear to it.  My reasoning from way back was that a 1-planet empire is really not much of an empire.  Although... come to think of it, I guess maybe that did change, so that you could eventually attempt to get them into the federation.  I think that wrapping that into another option for tougher hostile alliances, along with the possibility of having multiple fear empires, is something that would be good there.

Basically the changes that I made were to make it so that for players still learning the game, it was not such a slap in the face that they could not anticipate.  That comes back to the opaqueness question.  I do NOT want to be giving players warnings of what might happen with hostile alliances, because having them pop up surprisingly is way more fun and more in character of the universe.  That said, having your strategy be irrecoverably messed over by that is not a fun thing for a lot of people.

Then again, for people who already know how it works, or just prefer things to frankly be harder... well, the sort of harder mode that aligns with what you are talking about seems like an imminently reasonable option to add, and it would not be hard for me, either.  That one has a much more obvious solution to me compared to a lot of the things that have been discussed here.  Basically I think it's good for the "vanilla mode," but the advanced players really would probably prefer that option to have it be more hardcore.

Incidentally, having the Advanced Start screen become as complex and flexible as the general lobby in AI War is something I am TOTALLY okay with, and expect to happen over time.  We're never all going to agree on the preferred way to play, and the Quick Start option is intended to give people a good time on their first time or two of playing.  The Advanced Start is where the longevity is intended to come in.

Anyway, my point was that some of player feedback and response to give them more options kinda makes things too easy or makes some of features lose their flavor.

Yeah, in some of those cases, I really regret that.  The ability to dispatch for RCI is the main one I regret even in the base game experience (options aside).  I may need to make that an option that you have to turn ON in order to have.  Somebody is bound to scream bloody murder if I just take that feature away entirely, so I can't do that.  But making it an optional thing that is default off is probably the wisest course.

If a planet is in a bad place or a good place, your ability to impact that is SUPPOSED to be very limited, and you have to work around that one way or the other.  Not in a Skyward Collapse "things are flailing like crazy" way, but rather in a sense of "this solar system is huge and a complex network of peoples, and I am just one four-headed dude."

And speaking of flavor, now that evucs don't do igniting gas giant until they are on final planet, they never do it since they don't always have gas giant being their final planet. I guess it might help if they would always start on gas giant, but well, they don't. Anyway, I don't know why the rule was changed, but previously there was hurry to make evucs stop whenever countdown started which gave nice alarming feeling of "Shit got real". Besides, they usually got their planet conquered before blowing it up(I've only once seen them blowing it up on game where I let them and that was on old version where ground combat took forever due to ships being in orbit forever) so I'm not really sure if there was any harm to it. I kinda forgot what I wanted to ask about though, sorry about that got sidetracked by my wondering about changes to anti federation alliances and I kinda forgot what was the thing about player feedback I wanted to ask about ^_^;

With the planetcrackers and the gas giant ignitions, originally my concept (pre-alpha) for those that these would be incredibly rare actions that are just "holy crap what is happening, this is nuts!" that people would run into.  So part of the deal with them not always having a gas giant was to aid in that.  But the rarity of them being able to actually pull it off is indeed troubling.  At one point they were threatening it WAY too often and then failing to do it, and I hated that.

Here again, this is an area where kicking new players in the teeth is not something I think is cool, and I think it's more cool when it comes up only rarely for some people most of the time.  With stuff that happens more rarely, that gets to that sense of the game being different every time -- if something happens too often, then that's where it gets boring and samey, you know?  So this was another attempt of mine to help make the game play out more differently between playthroughs.

All that said, I do have some interesting ideas for gas giant ignitiions that would work for an advanced option here and that would be seriously hardcore.  Basically getting at all your complaints, and being thematically appropriate by getting the Evucks to flee to piracy instead of literally suiciding when they still have planets left (which was part of why I made that rule, because it made no sense to suicide when you have another perfectly good planet).

How are we supposed to do androns only alive achievement since androns never conquer planets? Use acutian planetcracker on everything combined with evuc gas giant igniting?

Yeah, that one is meant to be bloody hard. :)  It used to be easier to pull off, though, because of the gas giant thing being more likely to let happen.

Oh and umm, since you guys talked about rci values... Why does rci value federation joining condition require races to like you? I mean, its already up to luck which of four values(if any of them) get down to -2000, but since they have to like you as well, you can't influence rci values or they hate you for sabotaging them.

Well, that's kind of the thing, right?  If you are the League of Shadows and you're sabotaging the economy of Gotham City for decades, that doesn't really make them want to join the League of Shadows (even if that was an option).  But if you are Somalia and your economy is absolutely terrible, you'd be pretty interested in doing some mighty fine deals with the UN.

The "unusual ways to get into the federation" options are meant to be something that are super rarely able to be used, and where the circumstances have to be just right.  If you could just directly impact the RCI values and drive them into the floor without it mattering that the race hated you, not only would that be out of character for the game (in terms of it making any rational sense), but also you would have the problem of players kind of gaming the system and using that overly much.  These were always intended to be a "hey let's capitalize on this unusual situation where the stars align and we can get these guys in through nonstandard means.  Again a way to try to have more variety and options, without making those options actually be valid all the time.

...Ah, sorry for long post ^_^; And sorry if its... Annoying, there are things that have bugged me in my few previous playthroughs when I finally completed game on all first race options

Not a problem at all, no annoyance taken.  I think you're right on the money with a lot of your points, but I think that they only really apply to advanced players (which you kind of hint at, frankly, at the end there).  I think it's time to start really beefing out the Advanced Start screen with more ways to make the game hardcore while not obliterating the basic game experience and thus forcing out less-expert players from even getting started.

A word of note about the brevity of Arcen comments: It takes a long time to answer questions in an official manner. Nonofficial comments are faster, but are more prone to being misinterpreted (See recent GOG 'discussion'). That time that sometimes better spent on working.

Yep, I used to have basically a 1:1 ratio of my posts to everyone else in the forum, basically until the end of 2010.  Past a certain point you guys just outnumbered me so much, though, that those numbers have slipped and slipped and slipped.  I do try to respond as much as possible to the really important things, but I also do want this to be a place where you guys can freely discuss things without feeling like I'm looking over your shoulder constantly, too.  What I mean is, this is meant to be a place for not only for you guys to talk to us at Arcen and us to you, but for you guys to talk to each other.  As the community has grown, that last category has grown a lot.

As I have grown more used to this job, I've also been really trying to spend less time in the "panic mode" where somebody goes "X is broken and this is a criiiisis!"  It's usually a valid point, but a minority issue that only affects a subset of hardcore players.  And in a lot of cases in the past, I've really negatively affected the majority of players who are less hardcore by making a change too quickly.  It's also not healthy for me being in that panic mode constantly where I'm freaking out all the time.

That line from Men In Black is really appropriate: "There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!"

Except in this case "these people" refers to Keith and I, not you guys.  And it's not important that we "not know about it," but it is important that we take things in a measured way rather than running around like crazy.  It's the difference between Kay trying to efficiently and calmly take care of the situation, versus Jay running like a madman and causing collateral damage in the streets, etc.  Which isn't to say Jay wasn't smart, he was just less experience and more knee-jerk reactive because of it.  I'm trying to be a little more in between those two, because Kay took some things a bit TOO much in stride. ;)

Anyway, a bit part of the problem was that I was literally working like 14 hour days for a long long time, and I was realizing like 4 hours of that was spent on email and forums.  That's just... not healthy.  I have a family, and I already work long hours as it is.  So I'm just trying in general to achieve a better work-life balance without letting the overall flow of things slow down.

Incidentally, during the month of May where things were moving so fast with TLF, I had an excellent work-life balance, so that's an example of what can be done while not sacrificing family or health.  The month of June has been a mess in terms of progress on TLF for a lot of reasons completely unrelated to that (all the various notes above).

My perspective on anti-federation alliances - They are mostly working. Some small tweaks would help, but the ratio of how much it would improve the game versus how much time it would take to fix it is not favorable for it being addressed soon.

I think that this is the case for the baseline experience, as well.  And in terms of adding more Advanced Start options, I can probably do what is described above with about 30ish minutes of effort per option, more or less.  I think that's a pretty excellent use of time that should satisfy a lot of our growing population of hardcore players (who are the long-term lifeblood of any game's community, and usually the group I personally identify the most with given my own intense familiarity with the games we make).

Same is true for achievements.

Can you clarify what you're referring to with that one?  The Andors thing, or the linux thing?  With the Andors achievement, that one is meant to be super hard, so year.  Although, in invasion mode in the expansion, I think that one will implicitly become somewhat easier since the Obscura turn into a new way of obliterating other races.

In terms of the focus on making the steam achievements work on linux, that's something I have to do in order to properly support linux on steam, it's not really an option.  I can't favor one platform over another and still claim a feature for the game.  And I can't port all the other games to linux until I do that, too.  And for us, that's a major win in PR at very little effort once the stupid steamworks thing is resolved.  It's not a huge amount of income for us right off the bat (like 1% I think, maybe 2% at most), but with Steambox and so forth coming, I do want to be positioned to not be left behind there, and it also opens doors with Humble and other sites, too.

Plus, frankly, a lot of our core audience is really into linux, so making life easier for them is always something I'm happy to do.  A minority of our customers overall, but a substantial portion of our most-core players in the community.

Anyway, if there's something else with achievements, please do let me know what I'm missing, heh.
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Offline Gelatious Cube

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2014, 09:05:29 PM »
Original: http://arcengames.com/about-the-recent-schedule-and-tlf-updates/


A really great question from a recent post:


Hi Chris – Is the last federation pretty much the final product now? Unless I’ve missed something the last update was June 6th to 1.24 -25


Before that you were changing every two or three days. Thanks



I've posted a few notes about this in the Off Topic section of our forums, and I think some bits on the TLF forum as well, but not everybody sees every post, and I didn't ever collect everything in one place.  So here we go!





<strong>What's Been Going On Lately?</strong>





The Last Federation is not the final product any more than AI War is, in the sense that those games are intended to evolve over years.  Others like Skyward Collapse and Bionic Dues are the final product, but these two -- AI War and TLF -- are currently ones that we consider in active long-term development.


The lack of updates on TLF has been due to a number of factors lately.





Some have just been scheduling things with trying to make sure that our other projects don't languish -- for instance, there's not enough art for TLF to be working on, so I have to get design stuff in place well enough for Blue to be working on art for Spectral Empire, even though I'm not going to be doing heavy design there for a little while, and Keith won't be starting coding there until early July.  Since right now I'm the sole programmer on TLF, that means that sometimes I have to set that aside to help manage things with the other projects, since I'm also the designer and producer on all of them.





Another issue was some personal stuff that came up and impacted me for a week and a half or so there in a major way, so that set me back in general.





Another factor has been the website redesign, as well as the (still in progress) work on redoing our site store.  That takes an amazing amount of time, but it's been something we've sorely needed for a couple of years now.  Now was finally a time where I felt like I had enough breathing room to do it (there's always other stuff to be done with games, but if I never set aside time to work on these other side things then they simply never get done -- I've been really wanting to do this site redesign since something like 2012, because Joomla really wasn't working out for us).





Another factor is that I've been trying to work on better steamworks integration for our games, particularly for linux.  TLF's steam achievements don't work on linux, and I also want to get steam cloud support on our steam games in general.  Once I get that working, then I want to get Valley 1 and 2, Skyward Collapse, and Shattered Haven all ported to linux.  Tidalis will remain PC and Mac only, and AI War's linux port will come after 8.0 comes out in August.  So that one will be more delayed.





Yet another factor is that I'm trying to plan an easier way to install expansion packs for our games, without requiring an actual installer.  "Just unzip into your main game folder" works for windows machines, but on OSX and possibly linux there is not a merge-folders-when-unzipping natural behavior.  Instead it just blows away entire folders, which is, ah, a big problem.   It's not remotely insurmountable, though, as our normal in-game updater already solves that.  So I just want to make a form of expansion-unpacker that more or less does the same thing.  This will be important for our non-steam non-windows customers coming up when with the TLF expansion, as well as with our other games that have existing expansions when we do updated packages for them that include other OSes, etc.





And lastly, when it comes to the actual updates to TLF itself, the time that I do have for that has been temporarily spent on the expansion.  Some of that actually has gone to other changes to the base game, but there are substantial changes to underlying systems there, and so I want to make sure and get all of that in at once, and then do those as a beta update rather than an official update so that we can have a set runthrough of testing all at once rather than having to go back and forth between beta and official updates a lot, or stay in beta versions for a long time.





<strong>What Will The TLF Update Schedule Be Like In The Future?</strong>





As with AI War, that's really going to vary depending on the time period.  There were some periods in the history of AI War where we went 6+ months without an update because it was in good shape and we were working on other things.  Then we came back into periods with updates every 2-3 days for a month or two.  And then many other extended periods with a release every 1-1.5 weeks or so.  That's the current expectation for TLF from our end, given the level of interest the game has had.





When the TLF expansion comes out into its beta form, which should be within 2 weeks (I said that before, I know, but some other stuff came up as you note above -- apologies, that usually does not happen), then expect a flurry of updates every 2-3 days again for a while.  Focusing both on tweaking and balancing the expansion content, as well as making generalized improvements to the base game.  When the expansion launches officially, most likely in August, then the base game will be considered 2.0 alongside the new expansion's release version.





After that... right now it's too early to say, but I'm expecting that we'll likely be in a period of releases every 1-1.5 weeks for a while, as we'll be working on Spectral Empire in the main.  Assuming interest remains high in TLF, then at some point we'll work on a second expansion for TLF, and during a month or so period there we'd see heavy development again with tons of updates to both the base game and then of course work on the expansion.  If you look back at the history of AI War updates, you can see that's more or less how it works out.





Completely as an aside, we tried the approach of not doing expansions and just doing tons of free updates to the base game with Valley 1.  Valley 1 sold very well at the start, but partly because of our persistent post-release work without any sort of paid additions, we're still very much in the negative for having made that game (aka, it cost us a hundred-ish thousand dollars more to make than we have made selling it).  With AI War, we've been able to balance things out more, having it be very profitable on an ongoing basis (5 years now!) partly thanks to the expansions, while at the same time using that to help fund updates to the base game, free for everyone, all through that time.  And frankly that covered the losses we took on other titles that were not financial successes -- it let us have a bit more freedom to experiment.  Some of which led to great results, and some of which led to results that the market at least deemed not as great.





Anyway, so that's our update model and the reasoning behind it, which is all super familiar to long-time followers of AI War.  Any questions, always feel free to ask!


For years I've avoided posting here because I messed up my user name, but I feel compelled to respond to this one. Most developers just don't take the time to explain things to their customers like that, and I do appreciate it. I've been playing AI War since it was new, and I still haven't beaten it on 7/7. TLF is really good, but perhaps because I'm accustomed to the level of depth and polish available in AI War I certainly felt like TLF could use some more depth, and I'm glad to see that it will apparently get such depth. Keep it up!

Offline x4000

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2014, 09:32:58 PM »
For years I've avoided posting here because I messed up my user name, but I feel compelled to respond to this one. Most developers just don't take the time to explain things to their customers like that, and I do appreciate it. I've been playing AI War since it was new, and I still haven't beaten it on 7/7. TLF is really good, but perhaps because I'm accustomed to the level of depth and polish available in AI War I certainly felt like TLF could use some more depth, and I'm glad to see that it will apparently get such depth. Keep it up!

Thank you, it really does mean a lot to hear that! :)
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Offline ptarth

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2014, 10:20:03 PM »
  • re:Gelatious Cube
    • This might be presumptuous, but have you considered A. talking to this X4000 guy about changing your username, or B. Creating a new account?
  • re:achievements
    • I was referring to the Andor achievement.
    • As one of those GOG Extremists I have no interests in achievements as a whole. I'm also willing to bet that most linux users also don't care about achievements.
    • Mind you, I also don't have a large proportion of responsibility for a company.
  • re:Questions
    • There is a list of rated and ranked current version issues poll that would provide for a ready made list of ordered questions.
    • You could pick some of the highest ones and address them.
    • Responses could be range from general unofficial x4000 thoughts  to Official Arcen directives.
  • RCI
    • There is a large amount to be said about RCI.
    • I think a large portion of your unease will be addressed by the upcoming Racial AI implementation (*hint* *hint*).
    • Then it isn't a matter of being able to use dispatch to affect the RCI, but that you'll be busy doing other things.
    • Computer: Alert, the Acutians are once again poisoning their environment to improve economy yields to boost end of quarter revenue streams. Do you wish to do anything about it Hydraal? Player: I'm busy trying to convince the Peltians that they need to stop spending their budget on flowers and to instead build more warships to counter the ongoing Burlust Fleet. Warn me when the Acutian homeworld starts smoking again.

Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline x4000

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2014, 11:17:41 PM »
Interesting thought on the racial AI stuff.  Could be something actually pretty easy to implement, and would certainly add a lot of variety and flavor.  Link please?
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Offline Misery

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2014, 12:44:04 AM »
Ye gods, that's alot of text.  Ugh.  Normally I try to read absolutely everything in a thread, but as I'm not in a patient mood today.... or what passes as "patient" for me.... I'll just state my own problems/concerns even if they've already been brought up above.


My own biggest problem is very definitely the RCI.  So very many things are based on it.  But right now, there's no such thing as strategy in dealing with it.... it's up to the whims of the Random Number Gods.  If an RCI value starts to plummet?  There's little you can do.  The RCI values overall seem to be based on a really large "scale", so to speak, with values that are bad or good being in the thousands. 

But the things you can DO about it, and the effects that things like buildings have on it, in other words, the possible rate of any given change, seem to be based on a scale where 100/200, or negative 100/200, are the "really bad" or "really good".  In other words, the numbers are WAY too skewed in relation to each other, and seem to actually be from different sections of the development process over the beta.  It's as if an RCI balance change was needed at some point, and the current scale of thousands was created.... but the numbers in actual EFFECTS were utterly forgotten and simply not changed from the previous model.

Currently this is the core reason why I've not played in awhile.  It wrecks alot of the possible strategies that I may use, and causes WAY too much RNG interference for a strategy game.  Dont get me wrong;  a good amount of RNG is needed here.  But to me, that means things like events, and AI decisions... the RNG should not randomly decide "Okay, for you the player, THIS set of options currently DOES something, but THIS set currently does not, just because".   A game like this is best when the player has ALL options available (providing of course that they have the resources to activate, like credits and influence) yet needs to choose carefully between them.   Having options available that are bloody useless even when you have those resources is nothing but frustrating, and currently permeates every single aspect of the game that isnt combat related.  And given the game's design when working as intended, the RCI seems to be one thing that the player will be dealing with and affecting REALLY often, as it affects so many things, and so many things affect it.

Thus, I consider it by far the worst problem with the game right now.   It's likely to keep my interest low even with the new expansion if it remains in this state.

Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2014, 01:03:32 AM »
@Misery,
                       you may probably think i'm a rabidfan for saying this, (which i seem to alternate between and rabidheckler) and to be honest i guess i'm both at different times. Chris said above, and is certainly capable of answering his own questions, but i wanted to pop in and say this real quick...

you are much, much more experienced than me, and so maybe what you are saying is very valid, but abstractly i can see what Chris said above about not wanting the players to 'game' the system, i guess push RCI up, or down as they wanted, any time they wanted. So Chris and Keith made it hard to do that on purpose. Which makes sense to me. But also i'm a newb, so what you are concerned with is probably way over my experience and my head. I hope i haven't offended you, and i'm certain if you and Chris and Keith were to put your heads together you could think of something that would get you to feel ok about it, without having it be easy to exploit afterwards.  Anyway, enough of that, just wanted to pop in and throw out my thoughts.

Take care,
-T


 

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