Enterprising Starships: AI War Updates

By Alec Meer on September 3rd, 2009 at 5:09 pm.

Seems RPS’ noble attempts to stage a cross-continental conquest of the galaxy in the utterly splendid indie 4X game AI War is now threatened by more than our innate inability to organise ourselves. The lovely thing has just enjoyed a substantial new patch, which improves the game (and its graphics) in all kinds of ways, but likely means our savegames are now redundant. Back to the cosmic drawing board!

Here’s the key features:

- 16 new ships: 1 new energy reactor, 3 new starships, 8 new turrets, new mercenary space dock with 3 new mercenary ships.
- Major visual improvements — planets and backgrounds, some effects, parts of the HUD, and a few ship classes.
- Massively updated economy that is easier to manage and which scales better to very long games.
- New Energy model that provides more incentive for expansion while also fitting within the updated economy.
- Faster Starts: The repetitive activities from the first 5 or so minutes of a new campaign have now been automated to let players get right to the real game.
- Several major AI improvements: tactical retreats, better aggression against key targets, better tactical intelligence in a number of different scenarios.
- Revamped cross-planet attacks that are better balanced for players.
- A good number of performance improvements make giant battles perform better than ever.
- Network latency settings allow players to tune their game for high-latency networks.
- Improvements to the interface in general, most notably the planetary summary upgrades and the addition of the Threat Meter at the top of the screen.
- Drag-building of ships is now possible, and placement is even easier with Ctrl and Alt hotkeys while placing ships.
- Some updated battle sound effects.
- New “Energy Storm” music track replaces older “Thor” track.
- Many smaller balance tweaks, ship logic improvements, and other minor enhancements and bugfixes.

And there’s eight thousand words of release notes to devour if you’re really anal about this kind of thing. The three main things I’m taking from this, though, are a) prettier b) more accessible c) less grinding to a halt during enormo-battles.

You can snag the patch from the in-game updater, and if you’ve not tried the game yet the demo’s already been brought up to date with the 1.201 patch too.

Version 2.0 is due in a month or two apparently, but now still seems like a really good time to nose at one of the surprise wonders of the year.

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25 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    Now that’s what I call post-release support. Now if I just had time to play the thing.

  2. Serondal says:

    Wow, this is a huge upgrade O.o

  3. MacBeth says:

    Quinns must deliberately pick a low-iron planet for the second attempt, we demand continuity of contempt.

  4. Chris Park says:

    Starting fresh might be a good idea since you guys are not too far in, but savegames are forward-compatible. The main problem is likely to be that your energy will potentially be very negative at the start, requiring you to quickly build some new reactors on each others’ planets in order to get back to moving outward.

    Oh, and I would add a d) to the short list of takeaways up there: improved AI. The difference is extremely notable, though perhaps not something that very new players would really appreciate. The tactical retreats and better tactics in general really change the flow of a lot of the game on difficulty 5 and up, though, because AI waves that fail will often now escape back out into the galaxy to try again later, rather than smashing themselves on your defenses. Makes it a lot more dynamic and human-seeming.

  5. GJLARP says:

    The patch sounds good – this means that the developers are actively supporting the game. I may have to try out the demo after all.

  6. Sam says:

    Goddamit. I think I may have to get this game.

  7. unique_identifier says:

    the developer has made a bunch of blog posts about various aspects of the game, including the design of the AI, and optimisations …

    http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2009/06/designing-emergent-ai-part-1.html

  8. CogDissident says:

    Its actually cross-compatable from older versions to new. You just drop the new files in and it works just fine. The AI may start launching over-due attacks as soon as you start though, because it will see “hey, i have 400 units not doing anything? Why don’t i hit the players with these?”.

  9. Chris Park says:

    @CogDissident: The only other challenge is if the energy reactor buildup was nonideal in the old version, that can cause a big negative energy balance in the new one. But yeah, it’s recoverable in either case. It just might make things more difficult than they need to be right after the load.

  10. morte says:

    I just clicked ‘check for updates’ installer did its thing, and resumed my old savegame. Not a single problem, genius!
    Yes I did have a big Energy deficiency, but soon rectified.

    Just played for four hours straight, I don’t think I’ve blinked.
    Thanks Chris.

  11. Chris Park says:

    No problem, morte — glad you’re enjoying it! :)

  12. goodgimp says:

    You know I bought this game a few months back via Impulse to support the developers, but I *still* haven’t managed to find time to play it yet. Sounds like I shall have to rectify that this weekend, this just sounds like it’s right up my alley.

  13. mujadaddy says:

    FYI RPS: Your “noble attempts” link is currently linking to the thumbnail jpg of the original story, rather than the original story.

  14. neems says:

    So is this game enjoyable as a solo effort? The guys in my clan won’t play anything that hasn’t got fish in it (ie Cod. Sorry. Also a couple of them play some sort of fishing simulator. Yes really.)

    I really like the look of it, but I suspect it would go the same way as SoaSE and DemiGod – I thought they were brilliant, and then forgot about them 10 minutes later.

  15. Sam says:

    I’d like to hear about solo play, too. Most of my friends are console gamers and primarily RPG/FPS people, but I do enjoy strategy games both real time and turn-based with good single player (GalCivII is the last thing that really grabbed me).

  16. Chris Park says:

    Well, as the developer I am of course biased, but what I can tell you about solo play is that this is how most people play AI War. Co-op has been really catching on in the last month, but the simple fact is that most RTS games are played solo by the majority of their users, just looking at sales numbers of popular titles versus the number of players registered for online play on those same titles. So while the online segment certainly is a vocal and important segment for any RTS title, a huge amount of the sales of any title come from single player (again, so far as I can tell in my unscientific analysis of other games, and what I have observed with AI War).

    At any rate, the game mechanics are essentially the same whether you are playing solo or co-op. The main differences in co-op are the interactions between the players, and the teamwork factor, which are hugely engaging and my favorite way to play. But that alone doesn’t make for a good experience — the core game has to be fun itself, or all the teamwork and player interaction in the world won’t make it an enjoyable experience. I’d suggest the demo, and most specifically the tutorials, and if you aren’t sold by the time you finish the intermediate tutorial then the game most likely isn’t going to be your thing.

    The high quality AI is just as useful in solo play as it is in co-op, I might add. At any rate, if you’re into this sort of game, the consensus generally seems to be that you’ll enjoy AI War even if you’re not playing it co-op. Hope that helps!

  17. Vinraith says:

    The vast majority of people that play it play it solo, it’s really what it’s designed for from what I can tell. Co-op is great too if you can wrangle up some people for it, but from what I’ve played and read it’s a great single player game. The opponent is always AI, even in MP, so a lot of effort has gone in to creating a challenging and entertaining opponent that doesn’t require any other players. The same can’t be said of SoaSE or Demigod.

  18. Vinraith says:

    @Chris Park

    “a huge amount of the sales of any title come from single player”

    It’s really nice to see a developer that knows and understands this. The MP population of most any game is always the most vocal, and frequently the most populous on the online forums, but almost never the actual majority of players. Too many developers blow off the single player experience in a bid to please the vocal MP minority.

  19. Chris Park says:

    @Vinraith: I couldn’t agree more. I very much enjoy competitive multiplayer in some games, but the majority of my own gaming is also single player or co-op. The desire to have co-op in all games is basically so that we can share the single player experience with others, rather than it being a solitary activity, I think. I’d play more games if my wife could actually play with me on all of them, versus us having to take turns or be limited to a select few titles.

    AI War was designed with co-op in mind, not solo, since it came about out of a desire for something better for my weekly RTS group to play together (better AI, better co-op friendly features). However, in making a good co-op game you will almost invariably make a good solo game, too. The reverse does not hold true, and making a good competitive multiplayer game also does not necessarily lead to go solo. To me, great co-op and solo play go hand in hand when the designer is thinking about co-op from the start.

  20. Vinraith says:

    @Chris Park

    “the desire to have co-op in all games is basically so that we can share the single player experience with others”

    Exactly right. When I do play MP, it’s almost always co-op with friends, and this is exactly the motivation: a shared SP experience.

    “To me, great co-op and solo play go hand in hand when the designer is thinking about co-op from the start.”

    Makes sense to me. There are certainly ways that could go awry if the designers didn’t have SP in mind as well, but your underlying point is sound.

  21. Chris Park says:

    @Vinraith: “Makes sense to me. There are certainly ways that could go awry if the designers didn’t have SP in mind as well, but your underlying point is sound.”

    Well, okay, that is true. I mean, I think most designers (hopefully) always have an eye towards the solo experience as well as the multplayer one. The problem is that it is so darn challenging to reconcile competitive multiplayer modes with the solo experience, since they are such wildly different beasts (almost individual games unto themselves in many cases). With co-op, it’s much easier to just make that an effective extension of the single-player experience, rather than having to treat solo as this whole other mode.

    And for any indie developer, even one like myself who was focused so much on co-op from the start, solo is important because that’s the primary way we can test them. We’re our own first testers, no matter how many other alpha and beta testers we can round up. My goal is always to make it something that entertains at least myself in solo, since if I’m not entertained then no one else will be, either. And it’s very hard to entertain oneself with the same game for months, I might add, so a good test of lasting appeal is to make sure the game is still fun for yourself when it is actually released. ;)

    Anyway, I really digress there, but my point is really a concession that solo was inadvertently something I also put a lot of thought into, despite the fact that co-op was my primary goal. I think that would have worked differently had my primary goal been competitive multiplayer, though, and I think that’s where most game designs that solo players lament go wrong.

  22. Vinraith says:

    @Chris Park

    I couldn’t agree more, and once again I just want to say how great it is to find a dev that, pardon the cliche, “gets it.”

    I’m greatly looking forward to your future releases, and of course further support for AI War. :)

  23. Chris Park says:

    Thanks, Vin. Much appreciated! :)

  24. neems says:

    Thank you Mr Park, I shall check out the demo.

  25. Chris Park says:

    Sure thing, neems, I hope you enjoy it.