Alpha 4.18 shows up with textures

But first, here’s a screenshot of the Psilon invading the Silicoid homeworld of Cryslon. Notice the unique colony structure for the Silicoids. Each race has their own.

PsilonInvadeCryslon.jpg

Alpha 4.18 is now available. This patch fixes a few bugs and introduces UI textures into the game. You can download the latest version from itch.io:

https://rayfowler.itch.io/remnants-of-the-precursors

Remember that you can report bugs and discuss the game on Reddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/rotp

What’s fixed

Ship Combat – an error that was causing ship combat to hang has been fixed.

Allies using your transports – finally this problem has been fixed! It turns out to be related to a list re-use error that happened when one of your allies added or lost a colony.

Next Turn crash – I found another bug occurring during Next Turn when the AI was automatically reallocating your spending when a spending order completed.

What’s added

UI Textures – after a player request, we are drawing UI elements with textures. Completed in this patch are all of the gray panels (colony/fleet/transport info, etc) on the Main galaxy map. Brown panels will get a different texture in a subsequent patch.

If you do not like the textures, they can be toggled off easily on the main menu screen.

Coming up soon will be the incorporation of the Sakkra ship graphics… hopefully this weekend!

Thanks again for all of your feedback!

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Death by immolation and mortal wounds

Here are the last two death animations for the Sakkra. Immolation and mortal wounds. Which of the animations you see will depend upon your soldiers’ ground combat weapons, of course.

There will be corresponding animations done for the “Hostile environment” soldiers but that should be easier now that we know what we are doing for them.

In addition, I believe we now have an upper bounds on the time it takes to do the ships & death animations for a race: 1 month. It’s an upper bounds because generally the first one takes the longest due to the communication back and forth figuring out what looks good.

With 7 more races to go, that’s 7 more months maximum(?) until all of the ship combat artwork and death animations are done for the 8 races in Alpha 5.  That’s long enough! Anything else will get kicked out to the subsequent alpha. Add a month for artist burnout/vacation and that computes to a June 2018 date for a completed Alpha 5.

When the dates are set it always seems so far away but in this case but Alpha 5 is probably the last really huge chunk of artwork and features needed for the final game. After that, it’s the remaining two races and images for technologies & random events.

Darloks next?

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Alpha 4.17 is available


But first, here’s a screenshot of the the history report comparing the Psilon empire (player) against the Alkari empire (AI)

PsilonVsAlkari

Alpha 4.16 4.17 is now available. This is an important set of bug fixes for the “Jumbo” 4.15 patch (and one in 4.16). You can download the latest version from itch.io:

https://rayfowler.itch.io/remnants-of-the-precursors

Remember that you can report bugs and discuss the game on Reddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/rotp

What’s fixed

Fleets appearing in incorrect systems – this was the result of an imperfect fix in 4.15 of some ShipFleet synch problems. The way fleets are handled is going to be overhauled in Alpha 5 to address some of these problems more cleanly.

Crashes during Next Turn – there were a few of these, all fix. Some are related to a UI synch issue when stuff is popping up during Next Turn, and another is related to a fleet synch problem.

Lockup during Next Turn – this was caused by fleets retreating incorrectly from combats. This is fixed.

Please note that this will not be the last patch for Alpha 4, but at some point I will rework the ShipFleet logic which will definitely break saved games. I’ll try to push that out as long as possible so that we can get some of the new screens in Alpha 4 over the next month.

Thanks again for all of your feedback!

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“Death animations”

These animations are not in the original MOO but are an additional effect I want to add to the game. There are no gameplay mechanics associated with any of this. Ground combat will still remain functionally the same. This is just me wanting to make ground combat feel a little more immersive and fun even if it costs a little extra money and adds another month or two to the release date. Some things need to be done just because.

There are currently planned to be four types of death animation effects based on the weapon technology the attackers have. Below is one example: what happens when your Sakkra soldier gets blowed up real good.

sakkra_soldier_icon_explosion

edit: better animation:

sakkra_soldier_icon_explosion_08

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Alpha 4.15 Jumbo patch is here

But first, here’s a screenshot of the Psilon transport ship landing on what will soon be a Psilon colony!

PsilonColonize

Alpha 4.15 is now available. I’m calling this a “Jumbo” patch because I pored through all of the tester feedback in the past week to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Of course I did, but it’s a lot less than before! You can download the latest version from itch.io:

https://rayfowler.itch.io/remnants-of-the-precursors

Remember that “go to” place for all discussion and tester reports for the game is on the official subreddit at: http://www.reddit.com/r/rotp

Changes

Ship Combat

Health bars – ship stacks have health bars, giving you a quick visual indication of how well the stack is doing compared to start of combat.

Weapon Misses – these are now displayed, as off-center attacks

Bug, Planet disappearing – the planet in ship combat no longer disappears after you’ve destroyed all of its missile bases

Missile movement – the movement rate for missiles is now accurate and visibly tied to the ship they are targeting

Colonies

Shield Complete message – this is now grammatically correct

Stargates – once a Stargate has completed on a colony, you can no longer select it

Rally Points and Stargates – rally points will now use Stargates if they are in both systems

Deploying ships – for ship counts with extremely large quantities, using the mousewheel to increment/decrement will use larger increments when appropriate to speed up the process

Diplomacy

Final War – final war is now declared properly against you if you defy the ruling and techs are shared amongst the New Republic empires. Keep in mind that sometimes one of the AI empires will rebel as well!

Galactic Council – you can now use keystrokes on the Galactic Council prompts, much like the Diplomatic prompts

Third party diplomacy – the option to select the diplomatic option to ask an empire to declare war on a 3rd party has been disabled since this feature is not functional yet

Races screen – you can no longer see an empire’s trade status with other empires, just their treaty status

Races screen Status listing – this is now the default view when entering the Races screen, and the percentage totals for each of the bars is shown. When looking at the Population totals, this might be a good way to tell if another race is close to a diplomatic victory.

Races screen Intelligence tab – the age of the data is now shown

Warning spam – the threshold for the AI giving you a warning is now based on your treaty level. If at war, no warnings are given (unchanged). If allied, warnings are triggered for events with a -5 or worse rating. For pacts, the threshold is -10 and no treaty sets the threshold to -20.

Galaxy Map

System hovering – when hovering over a flight path, you have been able to see the fleet information for that path. Now if you hovering over a system that a flight path leads to, you would see the system rather than the fleet

Zooming – when zooming in on the map, the stars no longer turn white. In addition, fleets in orbit around stars will scale their distance from the star by the zoom level so that they visually stay close to the star.

Miscellaneous

Bug, crash screens – several in a related group all fixed.

Bug, Transit line to edge of map – player views for a system’s fleets could get stale, triggering this bug. Fixed.

Bug, Enemy bombing fleet did not trigger combat – fixed!

Next Turn performance – on a 100M save game given to me, Next Turn times were taking 65s. I found that 54s was spent in some poorly-written AI transport code. I got that down to 8s, greatly reducing late-game Next Turn times on large maps. By release most AI work will occur during the player’s turn so that “Next Turn” will generally be instantaneous, but I do not want to put that in yet since it will mask performance problems like this one.

Tech screen – the first tier of techs is not unlocked for viewing until you have spent at least 1 RP in a category

Fleet screen – when mass-deploying fleets, having one of the selected fleets already at your intended destination will no longer disable the Deploy button

Colonies screen – there is now a column listing the resource level of planets (Rich, Poor, etc)

Colonies screen Shipyard column – ship construction is now shown on the Colony listing only when you have allocated spending that turn

Sabotage screen – there is now a “Take No Action” button for those nice guys who change their mind about committing sabotage when prompted

Map screen – the map control buttons now work properly

Design screen Weapon Listing – fixed scrolling issue for long weapon lists

Design Torpedo description – corrected, no longer shows TORPEDO_1_BRIEF

Advisor Dialog – when an Advisor dialog is displayed on the map, you can now use keystrokes as normal

Please note that this is not the last patch for Alpha 4, but I will now start working on Alpha 5 content. A lot of that content will be introduced into the public alpha as work is completed, but the rate of release will slow significantly.

Thanks again for all of your feedback!

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Lineal Legitimacy and the Fallacy of the Spiritual Successor

My Sunday morning browsing led me to this thread on the Interstellar Space: Genesis forums. In it, players were discussing how faithful ISG should be to Master of Orion 2, a game for which they hope ISG to be the “spiritual successor”. It’s not a particularly noteworthy thread if only because some variation of this discussion appears any time a new space 4X game is being developed. This is indeed both a very common discussion and lament among space 4X fans!

Background

A brief history is in order so we can understand sentiments like this. With apologies to earlier space 4X games, it’s generally well-received wisdom that the original Master of Orion in 1993 established that brand as iconic within the 4X genre. It was an extremely popular game for its time, contending with Civilization (1991) as the best 4X on the market. In fact, the term “4X” was originally coined to describe this game!

In 1996, a sequel was released (MOO2) which ascended to even greater sales heights. Although it was functionally quite different from its predecessor, it made a tremendous impact on the genre, setting the standard for what a space 4X game should be. The disastrous launch of MOO3 in 2003, which left the “Master of Orion” brand in tatters, further cemented the iconic status of its predecessor as the “greatest space 4X game ever made.”

The debacle of MOO3 created a void in the genre for years that many indie developers have since tried to fill. They often postured their games as “spiritual successors” of MOO2, perhaps as a way to gain traction with MOO2 fans who simply want an updated version of their beloved game. In a way, this is analogous to the effect that World of Warcraft had on the MMORPG genre for years and the continual creation of “WoW killers”. And, if MOO2 is WoW, then that makes MOO1 the Everquest of the genre since it paved the way for its more popular successor.

What is a Spiritual Successor?

This is a subjective term but I think that most people will agree that a “spiritual successor” is a game that evokes the original while making improvements. It’s not just a graphically updated version of the game, but a different and hopefully better version of the game. This is why you often hear developers describe their “spiritual successor” games as “MOO 2.5”, implying that it’s definitely not MOO2 but instead a properly iterated version of that game.

So why do so many of these spiritual successors disappoint? This is a common outcome, after all, and is often tinged with allusions to developer betrayal. The problem, in my opinion, is about the iteration. 4X games are complicated beasts with many interlocking subsystems, and every gamer has different opinions about which subsystems are the “weak links” and most in need of improvement. If the developers believe differently, they often will modify systems that some gamers consider vital and untouchable. This ultimately leads to a broader disappointment with the game as gamers flock to the next title claiming to be the “spiritual successor”.

The importance of Lineal Legitimacy

You may ask, “ok, so how do any strategy games improve without alienating their playerbase?”. I think the answer to that is the notion of lineal legitimacy. Like nerdier versions of George Lucas, the creators of a franchise are often considered the writers of canon for the series no matter how good or bad it turns out. I think this is a very real thing and why, for example, many MOO fans occasionally ask if races from the disastrous MOO3 will ever be added to these various MOO2 “spiritual successors”. Why would they do that if MOO3 was terrible? It’s because, as bad as the game was, the additional lore and races surrounding it still carry the legitimacy of canon. MOO3 is akin the Star Wars prequels in that it can’t be ignored no matter how hard we try.

Reclaiming Lost Legitimacy

The example of Civilization

The Civilization franchise, created by Sid Meier, has an interesting bump in its early history that many gamers forget about. The first two titles were created by Meier and Brian Reynolds (Civ2) at Microprose. When Meier left and formed Firaxis Games, Microprose licensed the Civilization title for a sequel to be created by Activision. Called “Civilization: Call to Power“, this was a genuinely good game that I played for hundreds of hours. It had a lot of very cool and interesting feature iterations that made it interesting to play which, for brevity, I will not list here.

Despite this, CTP was rejected soundly by many players because of those changes. I propose that the primary reason is that the game did not have lineal legitimacy in the eyes of many gamers because it was not a Sid Meier game. This makes sense when you realize that every Civilization game was not called “Civilization”, but rather “Sid Meier’s Civilization”.

When Sid Meier and Firaxis reclaimed the right to make a Civilization title, all of the functional improvements introduced in Call to Power were washed away, and they released Civilization 3 as an iteration over Civ2. There were no social works projects, no future technologies, no distinction between ranged/melee combat, no separate map layer for air units, etc etc (haha I just listed them). But Civ3 was wildly successful because it was a great game.

So we have an example here where the original creator returns to a title and reclaims lineal legitimacy.

Not reclaiming legitimacy

The example of Master of Orion

After the MOO3 debacle in 2003, most MOO fans considered the franchise completely dead and moved onto other space 4X games like Galactic Civilization, Endless Space, StarDrive and Distant Worlds. But 2014 created waves in the genre when Wargaming.net announced a reboot of the iconic franchise with Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars. But how could they claim lineal legitimacy when they were not the original creators of the franchise?

They presumably recognized this dilemma and subsequently made a great show of bringing the original creators onto the project as consultants. We were shown videos of these creators raving about how this sequel, created by NGD studios, was true to the original series. This was all a transparent, albeit necessary, attempt by Wargaming to bring legitimacy to their version of the game.

Ultimately, despite the vocal backings of the creators and a AAA budget, their reboot failed to gain acceptance mainly for the same reasons as so many indie efforts: their changes to the original formula were simply not accepted by the MOO2 loyalists that they needed for success. Rants about changes, for example, to their ship combat system peppered their forums and Steam reviews.

Creating legitimacy

The example of X-Com

X-Com was another extremely popular strategy game from the 90s that languished many years without a sequel. In fact, most fans gave up and assumed a sequel would never occur. Imagine their surprise after a decade-long drought when Firaxis acquired the rights to the title and announced a reboot.

X-Com: Enemy Unknown was released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim and fan acceptance. An expansion arrived a year later and a sequel joined the franchise in 2016. If one accepts the importance of lineal legitimacy, how did Firaxis pull this off?

Well, there are two answers. One is that there is really no notion of lineal legitimacy and that players just want good games. But if that were the case, then space 4X gamers would have stopped pining for a MOO2 sequel after the many, high-quality AAA titles were released including Galactic Civilizations, Endless Space, Stellaris and yes, even Wargaming’s MOO.

Like Wargaming, Firaxis wanted to reboot the series and called it a “reimagination” of the original X-Com. But, unlike Wargaming’s effort, Firaxis’s reboot was very true to the mechanics of the original game. It even included the turn-based mechanics of the original game, showing that the old game mechanics were still perfectly viable in 2012.

In this case, Firaxis essentially created their legitimacy for X-Com out of whole cloth by first demonstrating that they could remake a modernized version of the original game. And once they have established their legitimacy, anything they do with the X-Com series is going to be considered canon by the players.

Testing the Theory

The example of Remnants of the Precursors

This is a game development blog maintained by a game developer discussing issues related to his own game. As such, it’s fair to wonder if I’m “putting my money where my mouth is”. I think that I am. Although I would love to create a “spiritual successor” to MOO1 with some of the cool things added in MOO2 (Antarans+leaders, anyone?), I really don’t think that I’ve earned the right to make that kind of a boast about any game I’m developing.

As a result, my plan has been from Day One to recreate MOO1 with aesthetic modifications for current times and try to convince gamers (and myself) that I actually know what I’m doing – and that I even belong on the stage. Once I’ve achieved that sort of acceptance from the MOO1 playerbase, then and only then will I begin work on a successor to the game with additional features.

This will be a good test of the theory because, unlike Firaxis and X-Com, I do not possess their technical wizardry to create a AAA game. Any game I create will have to stand on its less flashy elements.

Conclusion

Claiming to make “spiritual successor” for a popular game is a risky proposition for developers and seems doomed to disappointment. While you will certainly gain a larger early following, it is one that also brings with it a set of expectations and a perceived responsibility to meet those expectations.

Unless you can claim some sort of lineal legitimacy to the game you are drawing inspiration from, you will find that those expectations are a figurative mine field that brings with it a very vocal backlash of disappointed gamers if you make a wrong step.

Thanks for reading!

 

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