Hero cards

Legends and heroes of GalaCollider. A world set billions of years in the future…

Ashta Rax

At only 236 years post-transfer, Ashta Rax received the Gordie M. Prent Fellowship, making her the youngest Celanese recipient of the award in recent history. Rax is most well-known for her work in the field of deep space energy synthesization, in which she has made great strides in the application of compact neutrino collectors.

Commodore Pellin Yurr

Trained in the arts of warfare from the age of five, Commodore Pellin Yurr has made it his life’s work to master everything from armada conflict strategy to hand-to-hand combat. Commodore Yurr currently awaits his first military engagement as Commodore of the Ba’aul 6th squadron.

Hero mechanics

Heroes represent legendary personalities that can sway a battle, improve a sector’s economic situation or support a particular player strategy.

There are some key differences between Heroes and other card types. A Hero is unique and can (logically) only be in one place at a time. The distance they can move is also limited and controlled by playing a new copy of the same card rather than moving it around like a ship.

Heroes can be killed, captured and removed from play like other cards, but unlike other cards the extra copies of the hero card provide it extra “lives”.

Join us as you learn more about these and other Heroes in our future universe.

Disclaimer: As always, please note that game play mechanics, as well as the values and abilities presented in this article are not final and could still undergo balance and/or design changes before final publication; pending final testing, and community/player feedback.

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Update, May 20th 2015

General update

Massive progress across the board with many new contributing musicians, sound designers, new designer on our team, new PR marketing and testers added to the crew, new 3d modeling progress, new commissioned & licensed artwork and much, much more. We are probably up now to 40+ people with everyone counted.

Platforms?

asortedWe’ve had some questions about this, GalaCollider will be released initially on iPad and Desktops (Mac, Windows). We may also push for Steam at launch, or thereafter. If there is demand for a web-based player, we may consider that option too.

Long term, and also based on your interest, we are planning on supporting iPhones as well as Android phones and tablets.

FAQ

We decided this week to build an FAQ page on our site. This will be a growing body of questions and answers, so that things like “which platform will this game be on?” or “how do new players catch up with content if they join later?” can be answered there. We will see if this is up next week, and if not for sure the week after and it will grow from there.

Beta progress

Beta1 progress is going really smooth again after a slight bump in the road last Sunday. We are now switched over to Unity5 and nearly all the cards have been converted to match the art-style we’ve shown you here on our blog. I would fathom that we are 1 to 2 weeks away from me being able to finally start recording turns of the game so that you can actually see the game in action. This is going to be a big milestone for us and we will also re-post our videos on you-tube and other places! Stay tuned.

Kickstarter planning begins

ksWe’re starting to really focus on our kickstarter (KS) planning now. Part of this process involved attending a webinar on KS success, what to do and what pitfalls to look out for.

I learned that only two things make a KS successful or not: volume of visits and how many of those visitors back the project (AKA Traffic and Conversion). I also learned that the most important means to get people engaged and interested on your KS on Day 1 of the campaign is a mailing list, not social media. Which makes sense since social media may or may not reach the people you want it to reach when you send out messages.

This made us take a deeper look at how we’ve been doing so far. Last week we talked about slowing down our FB and twitter posts a bit. We’ve had good traffic from places, especially from reddit but our signup rate on our newsletter is still too slow.

In order to spice up the mailing list, and as a way to thank you for joining it, we’ve decided to tie a bonus to the mailing list sign up (offer will end Day 1 of the KS).

This next week we will work out if this is going to be in-game credit or if this will be a bonus or alternate art version of a card.

If you have a preference for in-game credit, bonus content or alternate art, this is the week to let us know before we finalize it!

And if you haven’t signed up yet, please sign up! Signing up let’s us know you want to see this game make it, it shows us your support and in exchange we will give you cool stuff for it. 😉

Your email address will remain private.

Hiring

As of right now our biggest hiring needs are:

  • PR / Marketing coordinator with direct experience getting indie games funded via crowd-sourcing
  • Test Manager
  • Unity C# programmer

As usual contact us if you are qualified and interested.

Next reveal?

We really would want to show game next, but alas we need to wait for the Beta to be ready. So instead this Friday we will reveal one of the other card types in the game. One of the following three will be revealed to you, feel free to comment and let us know which one interests you more!

Hero cards: Legendary personalities who can sway worlds and win over battles

Spy cards: Spy vs. Spy mini-game and experts at obtaining intelligence or even technology…

Ship Mods: Modify your ship’s blueprints in-game with modular improvements

Core-worlds and Sector cards

Today we go back to our cards and continue where we left off. Last time we showed you Ships, Developments and Operation cards.

Today we will focus on 2 more card types: Core-worlds and Sector cards.

Each sector you explore on the map will be connected to a card. Clicking the world brings up its card with associated stats and any special abilities. On this image the worlds on the map are a dull gray generic color, but the actual map in the game will have more color and variety. For example a sector could be a collection of ice crystals, an electrical storm nebula, a pulsar, a barren world, a jungle planet or an Eden-type Gaia world.

Gala_Mainscreen_v04_no_sel_with_HUD

The format for the Sector cards and Core-world cards is similar and shown below:

Coa_CoreWorld_Kesteron
Core world: Kesteron, a Gomeish core-world megacity known for the quality and precision of their war-engineers. Artwork by Maciej Drabik.

Core Worlds

Core-worlds are distinguishable from Sector cards by the fact that they have gold borders, deck building information and a faction-symbol on the top right hand corner.

Every time you start a game, you begin on your core-world. When you are building your deck, you will be able to select different core worlds to emphasize different strategies. The above Core-World Kesteron focuses on giving your Dreadnaughts (the circle symbol) a bonus to their attack.

Above the name of the card, on the right we see our three resource types, from left to right: materials, time and energy. In the case of Kesteron this core-world generates 4 of each of them for you every turn from the very start of the game.

The left edge has deck-building properties. Since we haven’t talked yet about building your decks this will be better served as a topic for a future blog post; but to summarize it briefly: the 3 numbers represent, from bottom to top: The minimum size of your starting deck, how many technology-slots you can fill and how many tech levels you are allowed to import from outside of your faction.

The bottom row looks very similar to a development card on purpose since these are values that are commonly shared between developments and sectors. If you forget what developments are, they are cards that allow you to build structures on planets that add abilities or boost its values.

From left to right we read on this core-world that it has a victory value of 5, that it has an intrinsic military value of 1 and that you can build up to 3 developments on it.

Sector cards

Sector_Mi-Zoth
Sector world: Mi-Zoth is a Methane world built in Silica that is inhabited by the lesser known civilization of the Yuturi. Art by Sebastien Hue.

Silver-border Sector cards are the cards that are connected to each of the regions of space you will explore, harass, capture and colonize over the course of the game.

They look very similar to core-world cards but simpler.

This particular world has an indigenous population of Yuturi on it. When you colonize it (cough cough “acquire it”) the Yuturi are all but willing to offer you their collective knowledge and thus benefit your empire with a one-time research injection of 3 bonus time-resources.

Mi-zoth is a methane, silica world. Which for now doesn’t mean much, but like all card subtypes it opens up future potential for us to trigger off of various sub types and create “tribal” card-set combinations.

Most Sectors generate much lower resources than your core-world, this world produces just 2 resources for example, split between some additional (research)-time and energy production.

If you want to produce more than this, you will need to pack your deck with developments you can build that increase your production rate, or grab more worlds.

Meanwhile this world does provide you with 4 victory points, and it can host up to 3 developments on it. A nice world to add to your empire for sure.

How are Sector cards placed?

So glad I asked myself that question. The plan is for the map to be generated in different ways. We plan on having reflected maps for serious battles (think competitive play) but also random maps and other possible shapes. The pool of Sector cards will either be known, or come from a pool that is associated with that map or the current local-conditions of the game. So for example the month of May could be a time when we move into a map area that is known for its harsh Gravity well conditions and games that take place in May will feature Sector cards of this type.

We also have plans to allow players to “seed” the map. Meaning a certain number of Sector cards on the map can be player-chosen and would represent “lost” colonies of that empire. Either from recent events (if we are fighting in an area that just suffered a disaster) or from long eons ago in another era.

Future plans also include neutral forces, space alien monsters, pirates… you name it. Everything is possible.

Strong players of GalaCollider will take the maps and local conditions into consideration when building their perfect decks. In GalaCollider you have to not only consider the evolving card pool when playing, but the environment too. Can you adapt to the universe as it changes over time? What new worlds will there be to discover?

Flash news

Tomorrow we have an AMA on May 9th at 11:30 PDT on https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/. If you can make the time available and want to talk to us, we should be two or three of us online at that time to answer any questions you may have.

Happy mother’s day!

Meet the Sylith

Countless ages ago, the planet Elgyin – who nurtured the Sylith into being – was nearly swallowed by her Star Husband, Elos. It was then that Hathṣtī, the Great Mother of the Void, blessed our people and bestowed the Sight upon us.

Those gifted with the Sight can see truly wonderful visions: the very nature and motion of the omnipresent Void. It is with our benevolent Mother’s gift that the Seers were able to join their powers together and free Elgyin from Elos’ fiery grasp. Even then, much of the destruction was irreversible.

To escape the burning fury of Elos, the Sylith had long taken shelter within Elgyin’s bosom. Beneath the surface, my people built a new home, replicating and preserving as much of our natal environment as was possible at the time. The Elders sought to collect all creations graced by Hathṣtī’s touch, to protect them from the negative forces stirring within the Void. This undertaking continues to this day; only now, our efforts reach far beyond Elgyin.

You see, the Great Mother Hathṣtī nurtures all within Her womb. Ever changing, Hathṣtī’s womb expands to gently cradle Her growing child, until such a time that She is ready to give birth. We do not know what we Sylith will become, only that we have a part to play in the formation of the Almighty Void.

Just as a single cell in my body might attack another, this current courtship between the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies is but a miniscule change within Hathṣtī’s developing babe. It is my duty, as a priestess of Hathṣtī, to help ensure that the Sylith continue to prosper and proliferate throughout the Void, such that Hathṣtī’s child will become the best version of itself, in Hathṣtī’s own image.

An account by the High Elder Gī’an Hathṣtī, Priestess of the Void.

Sylith Strategies

Sylith Warrior Concept Final nBG 1.1
Sylith Warrior Concept Art, By Cloud Quinot

Welcome to another Friday-spoiler. This week we introduce one of our alien races: the Sylith.

While we have many alien races planned, the Sylith are one of the two starting factions in the base-game. Each faction in GalaCollider will have their own strengths and weaknesses that help define them.

Sylith are a fast moving, striking faction. A Sylith force could attempt to rush their opponents with light, quick to build craft, capturing and raiding a sector before their opponent can respond. Or they could focus instead on stealth, espionage and cloaking technologies. Alternatively, some Sylith commanders are known to focus instead on the pure glory of battle, by asserting dominating control of star-space as they rapidly expand their empire.

Contrastingly, Sylith Elders have a more mystical connection to the universe. They have a connection to the Void and the natural world around them. It is not uncommon to see Sylith Elders floating inside of giant moving planetoids outfitted for battle with thousands of crew protecting preciously revered and ancient sacred trees. Elders are known to possess otherworldly senses of sight, foresight and inter-dimensional abilities. These abilities aid in maneuvering Sylith spacecraft, not only with more efficient propulsion, but by folding and shifting the space around them.

As a Sylith commander you will choose your path to victory, deciding which strategies to employ against your enemies.

Concept art progress

Over the last weeks Cloud Quinot has been iterating concept art for their warriors and elder. We see here both the final render of the warrior (above) as well as some of the sketches made to reach the final concept:

Sylith concept 2.1

From these we selected the purple one then got it’s head rendered before modifying it further into what you see above.

Sylith head concept 2 revised v4

Currently we are now working on the concept sketch for a Sylith Elder while in parallel another artist: Leonardo Peñaranda is busy sketching out Sylith space ships for all of their various types of craft.

Leo has great penmanship and is working on Sylith Spacecraft concept designs.
Leo has great penmanship and is working on Sylith Spacecraft concept designs.
An example of Leo's skills 3D modeling skills.
An example of Leo’s 3D modeling skills.

Production Process

Once we have the complete set of Warrior, Elder and their various spacecraft concept art pieces completed we will then transition into commissioning specific needed card art (to be done by many different artists) and we can also start creating the 3D models for their various ships, based upon the concept art designed.

GalaCollider tm. is an expandable scifi turn based card game by NeoCrux Ltd. currently in development and building towards a summer kickstarter campaign. If you want to keep informed please like our facebook page and sign up for our infrequent newsletter and tell your friends about us! You can also follow us on twitter.

Featured image courtesy of Zak Foreman, all rights reserved 2015. You can find out more about him on his Facebook and Art Station pages.

 

More about our card game’s interface

Today I would like to go a little deeper into our UI and the development process behind it.

If you’ve been following us you will have noticed that we have thus far shared two zoom levels of our UI: really far away (Galactic level) and very close (Battle level). Today we will go a little deeper into the various zoom levels and also share some of our transition-concept videos that should give a sense of how the UI looks and feels:

Galactic Level

Gala_Mainscreen_Blog_exposed
At this zoom level there will only be some basic information shown: Where your systems are and your opponents’ and the connections between various areas (the lines). This is just a concept image of the galaxy and will eventually need to be rebuilt in Unity3D. I should point out that we will be tweaking this in the game to have the lines between the sectors be more clearly visible. This may mean pushing back a bit on the galaxy-image.

Sector level


As we zoom in one “pinch” or “roll” we get a view of some of the sectors and their connections. The yellow and green diamonds represent quantities of ships, the circles beneath the sector represent how many developments that have been built on it. Beneath each is a number, which tells you how much available Command* remain.

* Command: How many ships you can have in a sector, bigger ships take up more command.

On the edge of the big circle are two small green and red circles, these rotate around the circumference like compass points and point towards (known) friendly and enemy home worlds.

For now this image shows the same gray planetoids all over the place, but the actual game will have various celestial bodies shown ranging from nebula clouds, to asteroids and various planet types.

The idea with the flow is that you will be able to pan the camera position by dragging your finger across the iPad screen (or scrolling if with your mouse). As sectors move to the edge they fade away and fade into view.

If you click on an actual sector it will move to be in the center of your view and then expand to show you more information, and look something a bit like this:

sector-view-circle_v2_with_HUD

This is very similar to the above image but now the central planet is enlarged into view. The 3D models of your ships hover on the left, and any enemy ships hover around the planet on the right.

You can move ships from this planet to neighboring sectors by dragging the ship over its neighbor. A single tap on your ship will also show you its information and related card; the same can be done with enemy ships. Planets (aka Sector-cards) and developments are also all tied to cards and by tapping on them, you will see their details too.

The 3 white circles in this image beneath the sector planet are place-holders for what our actual Development-symbols will be. Most likely they will become hexagonal in shape and be projected around the planet in a hexagon wire-cage. You may recall from my previous blog post with our first card spoilers that Developments are planetary structures of some kind.

Battle zoom

battle_with_HUD

This is the same image as before for the battle, just with the HUD around it. In battles you will select your targets, as will your opponent and then when all shots have been selected, both (or all players if more than 2) see each shot firing from all the ships involved.

Beneath the ships we will likely have more than 1 number. At the very minimum each ship will show beneath it 3 numbers: Attack, Hull and Retaliation. If you are familiar with other card games, these numbers may already make sense to you. Attack is how much damage the ship will deal, retaliation is how much it returns if fired at and Hull is how much remaining life points the ship has before being destroyed.

We will be experimenting with the use of icons to display special abilities of ships but for now the UI is clean and devoid of such information.

Not shown here is the fact that a tap on any ship will bring up further information and its related card. Like on the Sector zoom you can tap on your or enemy ships to see their full details.

The size of a ship can be important in our game, which currently is reflected in the size of the circle beneath the ship.

Ships have variable heights from the board but this is for visual aesthetics so that it feels like we are playing a miniatures game.

Finally all these 3D models are (probably) temporary, for purposes of concept illustration. The real game will also have a lot more color and not just be in gray tones.

Transition videos

These videos show, very roughly, how the transitions between the zoom levels might feel. This first video shows from the galactic to the sector zoom. This video has WAY too many sectors on it, but the feeling of it is great. So imagine it with half or less:

GalaCollider – 2-stage transition from GalaCollider on Vimeo.

Note that the movement depicted here for the sector level is a bit off because it shows some rotation when in fact all movement will only be pans (if this sentence doesn’t make sense to you, it probably doesn’t mater!)

Finally this video shows the 3 zoom levels. Like the first video though it isn’t entirely accurate in how it moves around, but the transition between the sector and the battle is nice and probably similar to how we will render it in our game. Before someone asks the red and blue lines are just tracing lines to make sure everything is matching up!

GalaCollider – 3-stage transition from GalaCollider on Vimeo.

A first look at our Game UI

Hello GalaWorld. Last week we shared the icons we were working on and got some great feedback on our blog and other forums / reddit pages.

Today we share with you our Game UI that is a “work in progress”. Like our cards that we shared with you a few weeks ago, these are still not final.

Let me run through the layout with you. The center area you may recognize from a few weeks ago when we put up images of our 3D space UI. The center of the screen is where you will be able to navigate around the galaxy, zoom into sectors, see your ships and determine your best strategies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.11.38 PM

Around this center piece we have our HUD with various important pieces of information. The top-left will have the menu button, information about the current phase and a button to press when you are done with your turn. To the right of this, in the middle is our information area. This section of the UI will change contextually depending on what is currently selected or important. Farther on the right we have our rack of icons.

CBIpNl0UMAIz_rl.jpg_large

These Icons are currently undergoing revisions and we shared the Icons with you last week for feedback — they still are not done hence why this block is currently “empty”.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.17.05 PM

At the very bottom-left we have some mysterious blue buttons. These will eventually also get proper Icon treatment and then be connected to sub-pages of the game. Right now most of them look the same but this is just “temporary”. When they have proper icons there will be: a tab for information, another for viewing blueprints of built ships, a third for intelligence information on other players and a fourth to review your research options.

On the far right and lower-right corner of the screen we have your deck, discard pile and your hand of cards. New cards can be drawn from the top of your deck and will move (in a hopefully very cool way) into your hand on the bottom-right of the screen. Currently we have the cards placed so that you can see the top-half of each card. We plan on making the full card visible on hover/tap or finger-press hold on the iPad. Cards in your hand can be played by dragging them onto the screen or by taping them and then pressing the “activate” button.

Thoughts?

We hope you like our HUD. As always please feel free to share any thoughts you have, we certainly read everything we hear!

Icons: a work in progress

GalaCollider features icons which appear on the HUD and on the cards. They represent resources available to the player and are an important element of the game.

When designing icons there’s a lot to consider. They need to be clear. They need to represent an idea in a way that can be interpreted by a diverse range of users. They need to stand out from other elements of the game, yet still fit with the over all style. They need to work on a variety of devices. But above all, they must enhance your experience of the game.

Sometimes things are quick to create, other times you just can’t quite seem to get it right. Our icons have gone through several revisions and we are still not there yet with something that looks good, fits our design and meets all the necessary requirements.

Here are the different versions we have made over time:

 

Version 1:

This is the clean, zero shading version. Exact shapes would need refinement but this was the original concept:

icons_v2

 

 

Version 2:

Version 1 pushed in a more “primary shape” direction, with some faded edges:

icons_v1

The conclusion from this was that the icons were too symbolic and would get confused with other colors and shapes in the game.

 

 

Version 3:

This version goes in an iconic direction. These are just placeholders and would need to be re-drawn:

icons_v3

These were now potentially too complex and so we then went to:

 

 

Version 4:

Back to more symbolic but now a symbol that hints at an icon. Somewhere between flat and rendered. Note that the lighting is a little different on the left than the right as part of our experimentation.
icons_v6

However version 4 was lacking “punch” and the icons were too dull and lost, especially at smaller sizes.

 

 

Version 5:

So then version 5: This is the same as the previous version except now with lighting effects from the center of the icons. the first 3 on the left were also cleaned up with thicker lines so that they would retain their shapes on smaller devices (phone screens, tablets etc.)

icons_v5

This looks decent but the colors in particular were not entirely fitting with the artwork and the rest of the style. However this was the “most final” of the icons we had produced as part of this process.

 

 

Version 6:

In a flash of inspiration, or folly… A completely different direction was the latest “let’s think this over again” approach. This is incredibly rough, and these images are just quick “place holders”, but the idea would be to have some sort of drawn icon with the numbers on top of them:

icons_v4

Similar to what Duel of Champions does for their three resources:

Meaning that we would draw icons and then render them in such a way that the number can be on-top of it in white. So you have to “imagine” the rock and the gear drawn to actually look like proper icons (similar to how well the above Duel of Champion icons look).

Considerations:

Simple Icons with a glow.

What makes this complicated is that the icons need to look good not only on the screen as part of the GUI but also when viewed on the top-left edge of one of our cards. We also need to show enough of the artwork on the left-edge of the card that you can see which card it is, by its artwork, without having to always click the card to see it.

As you ca see here, version 5 has nice symbols but the values of each of the resources need to go next to the icon instead of over the top of it, and that means it eats up more horizontal space. It also means that we end up with a lot of color on our cards and this break the coherency and mood of the artwork. (which is part of the reason I threw together version 6 quickly with the rendered icon look).

 

 

Next steps?

Oh icons, how you scorn us. At this point we could go back to version 1 and just refine that simple, iconic flat look, similar to what you see in other games like:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.11.15 PM
Starships by Sid Meier

Or we could tweak our version 5 further to make it work on the cards without eating up so much room.

Simple Icons with a glow.

Or we could develop icons like Duel of Champions did.

Or some fourth or fifth option we haven’t thought of yet?

Feedback

So we’d like your feedback, not just on our designs (as shown above) but also about games you play where you like (or even dislike) the icons. What appeals to you? What’s important to you? Did we make any versions here that you like more than others?

Thank you!

 

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/generated/323388124

First Alpha test result

Test results, as promised from our first test session of our Alpha 3.7 build.

It was a fun road trip down to LA, our writer Amy got to meet Rob and we all got to meet and talk with: Mick our video editor. Chris delivered last minute by fixing code items and drinking tea so that he could stay up late from his home in the UK to battle us in California.

Alpha3.7 build, with temporary graphics and no design implemented yet. Here we see a player getting started.
Alpha3.7 build, with temporary graphics and no design implemented yet. Here we see a player getting started.

Improving the gameplay

The laptop party resulted in about a dozen or two items ranging from bugs to playability concerns and card pool suggestions. I was really pleased to hear that the general consensus was that the game has a lot of potential and the testers felt it was very unique.

Feedback that related to usability or bugs were easy items to deal with.

We did notice that my test-decks need some tweaking to make your demo-cards more straight forward and cheaper to promote faster play (less big expensive cards and more cheaper ones). Changes to cards, stats, abilities and deck compositions are all very easy to accomplish.

A bigger concern though was that I noticed that the turn phases were a bit unintuitive for players. It doesn’t help that as an early Alpha you don’t have a tutorial or help-overlays in the game yet, but it is also even better when one doesn’t need help text to understand how things work. Up until this point we had conveniently split our turns into four phases that magically matched the 4-terms associated with 4X: eXpand, eXploit, eXplore and eXterminate. In eXpand you would colonize and invade, in eXploit you would gain resources from current and any new sectors your acquired, during eXplore you moved and built things and in eXterminate you resolved battles in sectors that are contested.

Our decision was to reduce this down from 4 to just 2 phases: the “move” and “battle” phases. Right now we don’t have a fancy name for them anymore, but that is less important than the gameplay. Invasion and colonization simply happen during the move phase with a single extra rule that makes it so that colonization and invasion can only happen if you start your turn already in the sector. The exploit is removed entirely and instead is just an “invisible” resource collection phase that now happens at the start of your turn.

Coding wise this has some impact on us, but not much. In fact in the week since the test event we have already implemented this fix in Alpha 4.01.

A much bigger problem we noticed was the increased turn length we observed when playing the game digitally instead of as a physical card game. This surprised me a little since digital games take care of all our housekeeping. I noticed that the increased “down time” waiting to take your turn came from a few contributing factors:

  1. In a physical game you banter and talk while the other person plays and you can observe where they are looking and their general activity,
  2. Somehow drawing, remembering, playing and discarding cards seems to go faster when the game is physical than digital. This is partly UI related but it may still remain a factor for newer players or because of the need to fit a lot of information on a small iPad screen.

If the game is already slow as a 2-player game it will only get worse in a 3+ player game. Granted some UI work will improve this, like being able to camera-track enemy moves so you can see what they are doing where, but the scalability of sequential turns would still be a problem with larger games.

We had already considered many months ago the possibility of moving from sequential to simultaneous turns, but we decided at the time to delay this until later on as a potential “side path”, pending budget or a strong need from testing.

That time had now come, and for the future of the game’s potential as a multi-player game the priority definitely increased substantially to explore simultaneous actions now, rather than later.

Gladly we are still in a very early Alpha release, so there is no better time to switch from a sequential turn sequence to a simultaneous one. The new architecture will permit both players to plan moves and build things at the same time and then once they submit, the server will play back all moves and actions each player did in order. Areas with conflict will then generate battles, players with ships / planetary structures located in the same areas as each other will get the opportunity to fire shots at each other (or activate special abilities) and then once everyone has picked their targets a grand space opera of blasting ships will then camera-roll.

This means now that Alpha-4 will likely be split into two, with the first part of it dealing with the turn refactoring and the second part of it being the original intent of adding in our mid-game technology-research mechanics. Alpha-4A and 4B doesn’t quite ring so instead we will push the technology feature-set to Alpha5.

All in all our timeline still looks solid with this change to hit our end of June soft deadline of Alpha development. Chris has been interviewing a dozen or so Unity C# programmers, with an extra set of hands the workload should become even easier to manage.

Core gameplay development

The main game underwent about 12 major revisions over the course of several months of print-and-play playtesting. I live in Santa Barbara and here there is actually a great little community of avid gamers and fellow game designers. 3 people helped playtest the game in this early phase. These people ranged from sci-fi board game lovers of Twilight Emperium, Eclipse, and Android: Netrunner to digital players of Masters of Orion II, StarCraft II and Sins of a Solar Empire.

At the time I was also reading several design methodology books. Game Mechanics, Advanced Game Design by Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans provided really great processes for building up a functional and emergent economic system and goes in great depth into Machinations as a form of system design.

Early Design Challenges

One of the initial challenges I faced was the natural tendency to want to stack ships together in the same sector to have an overwhelming force. This I resolved by imposing command limits on the size of your fleet that you are able to have in one sector.

Another challenge was getting the rate of expansion right. The early game rapid growth and mid to late game phases have to happen at the right speed with the right amount of friction. Machinations proved to be a valuable mental model to work through and apply various accelerators and friction coefficients.

Machination example from Starcraft II.
Machination example from Starcraft II

Tweaks to your home system’s start economy, map size and colonization rate provided the necessary early rate of expansion required to produce the desired game length. A friction coefficient was then added to the colonization cost to impose difficult mid to late game decisions regarding the desire to continue your expansion vs. paying for other costs ranging from combat attack-defense and alternative economic, political and strategic avenues.

If you are seriously into game designing I definitely recommend the three books found in the above image. They took a lot of what I might have known intuitively and transferred it into a conscious domain with a wider array of tools.

The three books cited above are: