Time to really start on Alpha 4!
Work towards the next Alpha will proceed a little differently than on previous versions because, for the first time, I will be maintaining support on a live version of the game (Alpha 3.x) while working on Alpha 4.
The advantages of this will be the hopeful elimination of bugs that pop up when I release the next version of the game onto the world after months of being cloistered in my software development bunker.
The disadvantages will be that my time is split between support and development, which could slow down development.
The work on Alpha 4 will be spread across several code branches, as follows:
Master branch – this is the main branch of the game that will be released to players for testing. Bug fixes and incremental features will pop up here for players who want to continue testing. In addition, writing additions from Jeff and translators will show up here as they are received.
Mrrshan branch – this is a separate branch of code containing all of the artwork for the Mrrshan race as it is being created by Petar. Once it is complete in about 3-4 months, it will be merged into the Master branch for players. This is a significant milestone for the Alpha and will reset the version to 3.5 or something.
UI Revamp branches – these will be short-lived branches lasting about a week or two to support the rework of particular UIs as they are redone by Kaitlin. There are at least 4 UI revamps planned for Alpha 4, and each will get their own branches. Planned are the Tech UI, Ship Design UI, Sabotage UI and the Galactic Council UI.
Ship Combat branch- this will be a long-lived branch to develop ship combat. The work should be divided into 4 stages with each stage merging into the Master branch when completed:
- Basic UI – this stage will replace the current UI with the tactical mode that shows ships moving around and shooting at each other. No player control yet, just auto mode. This stage must be complete for Alpha 4.
- Player Control -this stage will allow the player to move his ships in combat and generally play against a really stupid ship combat AI. This stage must be complete for Alpha 4.
- Ship Combat AI – this stage will focus on improving the ship combat AI to be not stupid. This stage needs to be “good enough” for Alpha 4 as improvements to the AI never really end.
- Visual Effects – this stage will focus on creating a variety of visual effects for the various weapons and specials used in combat to give them distinction. In addition, updated ship artwork from Petar will be added here. This stage needs to be “finished, but not necessarily polished” for Alpha 4. Like AI work, polish is always a continuing process.
Timeline – I have no idea. I want to say by the end of the year, but I can’t predict technical difficulties or, more importantly, the occasional code burnout that requires me to take a month or so vacation away from the project (happens about twice/year).