Fall update 2018

Hi everyone, I hope everyone had a great summer!

While we don’t have a new patch release date to announce yet, we are gearing up for a lot activity here in the fall/winter season.

Progress with the new rules

Since we last wrote, the following rule changes have been coded, implemented and tested. These are rule changes we are feeling very confident about and will be in the next major release of the game -Alpha 7:

  1. The game now only uses ONE resource type, not three.
  2. The exchange window is no longer needed and was removed.
  3. Any ship can now attack Sectors directly! Attacking a Sector lowers the Sector’s Star value.
  4. Any ship can now attack a planetary development, not just ships with Bombardment.
  5. Commander Sectors doubled in Star value (~20 stars).
  6. If a Commander’s Sector is attacked and reduced to 0 stars you lose the game.
  7. Your Command Sector can no longer be Contested, so you can ALWAYS build there, even if occupied by enemy ships.
  8. Moving a ship always uses up Fuel doing so, not just the first move. (more intuitive, cards re-balanced accordingly).
  9. Far fewer Sectors you discover generate Stars per turn than before, instead Sectors generate more resources, cards, etc.
  10. Your Main deck only needs to be 15 cards now, far less than before (24 cards), making the first reshuffle happen much-much sooner – and, therefore, Technology is far more critical in games.
  11. Developments all got a lot more Hull to account for the fact that now any ship can attack them.
  12. Bombard ability now does extra damage to attacks against Developments or Sectors.
  13. Nuke ability now does extra damage against Dreadnaughts and Sectors making it more useful overall.

We are still considering some minor changes to the Invasion mechanic that are aimed at making the mechanic easier to understand, but we are still toying with alternatives.

These are a lot of changes. Everything above has been coded and is working on our private servers so we are making good progress here.

The biggest impact is the old 3 ways to win will be replaced with 3 new ways to win.

Before it was, in order of most common occurrence:

  1. Win by Stars (very common)
  2. Win by invading enemy commander
  3. Win by contesting (very rare)

New win conditions:

  1. Win by Attacking enemy Sector to 0 Stars
  2. Win by Stars (we are aiming to make this less common)
  3. Win by invading enemy commander
  4. Win by contesting?

Because the enemy Commander can’t be contested anymore, winning by Contesting the enemy’s Command center is going to be harder than ever. We may still keep this win condition, but we may just remove it entirely.

We are still deciding if having a way to end a game early that is dragging on is more important than the added complexity of having to explain a very rare win condition.

We hope to make Star wins less common than they are now. From our statistics we can see that Star wins are about 75 to 80% of the games, this was by design. The remainder of the games are determined by Invasions.

With these rule changes we would like to shift this towards more 40% star wins and 40% commander destroyed and 20% Invasion wins. But, it is hard to say if the game is best when in this ratio or if Star wins or Commander destroyed should be higher/lower than 40/40 respectively. More data gathered via playtesting will be needed here.

Figuring out that ratio is part of the refinement process. We will be looking to player feedback, win/loss statistics and monitoring what determines the right game length, and assessing the right level of tension. We will achieve this balance over time by fine-tune adjusting core star-related parameters of the game (like stars per planet, frequency of star generating worlds, what percentage is needed for a Star Win etc.).

Other progress

Beyond the new rules work above, we have also been working on other aspects of the code: new features, bug fixes, etc. Here are some of the new features we’ve worked on that you can expect in our next release:

  1. Drag and drop targeting.
  2. New effects for things like “creating ships”.
  3. New replay effects for attacking developments with cards.
  4. New match maker – just queue up and we will match you with another player automatically, and email you when the game is up.
  5. Play-by-mail is now 100% bug free (at least as far as we can tell!), take a turn, rejoin later and continue when notified.
  6. Deck builder is done except for GUI aesthetics that we are working on, progress here was delayed due to refactoring, which we finished.
  7. In-game rulebook architecture done, this will let you look-up short-hand rules while playing the game for topics you want to know more about.
  8. Many new card abilities and some entirely new cards – catalyzed by a direct result of the game changes above.
  9. A ton of new sectors added to the game, also catalyzed by the new rules.
  10. Oh and new art! (some of which you can see on this blog post)

Next steps

Below is a list of what we are working on right now into the next 3 months:

  1. Finishing up the deck builder
  2. Finalizing any changes to invasion rules
  3. Building out the new in-game rulebook
  4. Adding a ton more tool-tips to the game, and adding rule-look-up features to them
  5. Scrap all the current tutorial missions
  6. Replace all the current Scenarios with 4~5 new Scenarios that guide you through the game in missions that increase slowly in complexity
  7. Finalize the Steam integration, so we can release on Steam – when ready
  8. (Ongoing) Searching for investors for our game, to help polish and release it
  9. (Ongoing) Balance tweaks to specific cards and overall win conditions, as we get more data on how these changes impacted the game balance
  10. Various UI improvements like scroll mouse bug fixes, 2D map-mode free-panning, add more clear indicator for ship-moves and consider adding also the ship-size to the card information when selected… and a host of other UI improvements

Most of the above should make sense, but the changes to the missions and tutorials might need some further explanation.

We are shifting the game away with the next build from the current “click next and learn” methodology instead to “here is a situation, figure it out by yourself” approach. We will let you basically swim more quickly and try to give you positive-feedback results faster as well. In practice this means you will try to do things, and we will give you more feedback when you can’t do things – with the option to “learn more” about that concept or rule.

We also plan on releasing a lot less Scenarios and Tutorials in the next Alpha because we really want you to play head-to-head for now. The AI just isn’t ready yet to give you a good challenge; the real heart of this game is still in the immense depth it offers players in the one-on-one format. So rather than try to accommodate both single-player minded folks and multi-player people, we want you, our players, to focus more on the strength of the game and get you into the multi-player mode ASAP.

Later we plan on not only making the AI a lot more interesting to play against, with various mission types and a more realistic but also harder AI, but also adding additional play modes like free for all, cooperative, teams, etc. with up to 8 players. This, along with mobile device support, will be followed up by bigger features we plan on adding post-Steam release (following on good revenues?) or as a result of securing funding with an investor/publisher.

Bye for now!

Thanks for sticking with us and reading our updates! We’ve been working on this game now a good while so we are very excited to finally get it done, and in a better place, for a wider-public release.