Next Alpha = Fall 2017

Before the Alpha 2 started in June, I mentioned that I would recalibrate the game’s release schedule after testing was complete to ensure that everyone understood a proper timeline for the game. I did some “back of the envelope” estimates today and have concluded that Alpha 3 will occur sometime in the Fall of 2017.

The goal for the next Alpha is to have ship tactical combat and 8 (of 10) races completed. The artwork for each race takes about 2 months apiece, so going from the current 5 races to 8 means about 6 months of artwork. Why two months per race? Here is what is currently drawn uniquely for each race:

  • Animated advisors (4): Soldier, Scientist, Diplomat & Spy
  • Backgrounds (2): Laboratory and Galactic Council
  • Miscellaneous (4): Combat Troop Icons, Planetary Colony, Species Logo, Dialogue Interface Frame

Each of these items require mock-ups from Petar and a lot of  back-and-forth discussion until we agree upon a good look before he can start work on the high-res finished product for each. It takes time to get it right and I think that the amazing artwork we have seen so far validates this process.

(As an aside, I will tell you right now that I am convinced that there is no game in the space 4x genre that has artwork as beautiful as what Petar is creating for ROTP. And I’m not just talking about  indie games, but all of the big studio games as well: MOO:CTS, Endless Space, StarDrive 2, and GalCiv all have very good race artwork, but not as much as we are creating. Every other game in the genre I’ve seen, including the previous MOOs, have mediocre artwork. Shockingly, Stellaris is easily the worst of the lot especially when you factor in their release year and budget. )

In addition, to support tactical combat we will need 24 ship icons for each of the 8 races. That’s 192 icons to draw so I’m guessing that will take another 3 months (averaging about 3/day and 21-22 workdays/month).

Finally, more race-specific artwork is added as the game progresses. For example, the next alpha will add the following race-specific art elements that then have to be drawn for all races:

  • Transport landing ship (currently all races use the same green ship)
  • An animated astronaut to be used when colonizing a new planet
  • Alternate versions of the ground combat soldiers for use on hostile planets

Let’s say all of these new pieces take a total of 2 months. That’s actually pretty aggressive, since they have to be done for the 8 races. That’s only one week for each race, but I am hoping Petar will be able to save time by leveraging off of existing artwork. Why so much artwork for each race? I am convinced this is probably the single biggest factor in creating an immersive gameplay experience, so I do not intend to cut corners on it.

Anyway that’s 11 months right there, just to support the artwork for 3 more races and ship combat. In addition, there are about 3 dozen technology icons/animations to create — displayed when a player learns/steals a new technology. That has to be at least another 2 months right there.

So, 13 months plus at least another month for padding means the next Alpha will be over a year away – sometime next summer or early fall.

At that point, however, we will have all of the major game components in place, missing just random events and the last two races.

Every time I re-evaluate the schedule, this game always feels like it is going to take forever. But I hope everyone appreciated seeing in the last June alpha that this game is REAL and PLAYABLE and just needs to keep moving towards the finish line, which it is doing.

I do apologize if you were hoping for a quicker release (I definitely was!), but remember that this project exists only because no actual game studio has picked up and created a proper MOO1 sequel since its introduction 23 years ago. It seems that a random MOO1 fanatic who happens to be a software developer (me) has to do it in his spare time, paying for the things he can’t do (art, music, writing) with his real-job paycheck. I  don’t mind! It’s a great hobby, but the pace is going to be slower than what you’d expect with a commercial product.