Exilian

Exilian Projects => Computer Game Development - The Indie Alley => Topic started by: SLiV on October 21, 2017, 05:32:44 PM

Title: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 21, 2017, 05:32:44 PM
(https://i.imgur.com/Ane8N27.png) (https://www.epicinium.nl)

Hi everyone! I'm Sander, one half of the development team that is creating Epicinium.

Epicinium is a strategy wargame where your impact on the environment matters; at the end of a match, the winner is scored for how much of the map is still covered with grass. Machinegunners trying to hit the enemy soldiers might just miss and mow down some trees. Do you capture your enemy's cities so you can control them, or do you just bombard them to kingdom come? Do you let your citizens enjoy the forests that surround your city, or do you cut them down to dig trenches? It is possible to take a less destructive approach, but can you afford to? Building industry gives you more money to work with and access to powerful tanks, but it also increases global warming to ludicrous levels. If you win by having your enemy's half of the map ravaged by firestorm, did you really win at all?

Our initial inspiration was "Advance Wars with environmental mechanics", but the gameplay is quite different because of the simultaneous turns: during the planning phase each player assigns up to five orders to their units, and during the action phase the players' units alternatingly execute these orders. This adds a surprising amount of depth where you have to anticipate your enemy's moves and attacks, because your bombardments might miss or your units might get shot halfway before getting to their destination. And beyond that are the environmental mechanics like collateral damage, seasonal temperature changes, ground pollution and global warming.

Daan and I started working on this game somewhere around May 2017, and we're developing for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux with cross-platform multiplayer.
Because multiplayer is our main focus, we've set up a Discord server (https://discord.gg/Wjb8uR2) for players to chat and find opponents.
More extensive information on the mechanics can be found on the wiki (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium-documentation/wiki).

(https://epicinium.nl/kickstarter-gifs/leader.gif)

I'm really curious what you think!

Discord (https://discord.gg/vQhTURC) | Website (https://www.epicinium.nl) | Twitter (https://twitter.com/EpiciniumGame)

Edits:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 22, 2017, 10:56:58 PM
Ooh, this looks really nice, and it's a good concept :) I'd be very happy to do a few bits of testing for windows-version, though I can't do super much at the moment due to lack of time.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 04, 2017, 10:43:56 PM
We've just released version 0.7.0, which features an overhaul of the lobby screen to make it more usable, as well as the addition of online AI opponents, observer mode and the ability to watch replays of old matches. The full release notes can be found here (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium/blob/master/RELEASENOTES.md). We're approaching a more open beta so we're continuously looking for more playtesters. Let me know what you think!

(http://i.imgur.com/uJZQcmY.gif) (https://imgur.com/uJZQcmY)

Ooh, this looks really nice, and it's a good concept :) I'd be very happy to do a few bits of testing for windows-version, though I can't do super much at the moment due to lack of time.
Thanks! Daan just played a match against someone from Exilian, was that you? If so, thanks a lot for the feedback you gave!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 04, 2017, 11:25:18 PM
No, it wasn't me, I've been head down working on my own projects mostly lately... I'm now wondering who it was, glad we're sending folk your way! :)

I gave this thread a plug in our October newsletter, btw, so hopefully that's a small help :)
https://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5397.0
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 05, 2017, 04:00:52 PM
Thanks for the mention! Some interesting stuff in this month's issue.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 09, 2017, 04:39:15 PM
Yeah, it's a fun thing to put together and track projects as they go :) (I basically put whatever projects have updated themselves in each month, with the caveat that I avoid putting any project in two months consecutively). Then we do separate frontpage announcements for kickstarters and major releases etc.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: bigosaur on November 18, 2017, 08:43:56 PM
Hey, I've seen the logo you posted on Reddit.

https://i.imgur.com/pCW6LLS.gifv

Looks pretty good. I assume the top represents fire and bottom the ice?
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 20, 2017, 11:38:45 PM
^ Ditto what bigosaur said, it looks good! :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 22, 2017, 03:28:02 PM
Thanks!

I assume the top represents fire and bottom the ice?
Yeah, since global warming in our game causes extremely hot summers alternated by extremely cold winters. Perhaps a bit literal but I think it gets the idea across. I want to increase the pixel density and animate the flames, because I just upscaled the logo I made the week before, but I haven't had time for that yet.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 25, 2017, 08:52:50 PM
We've just released version 0.8.0 (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium/releases/latest), the first public beta version. We have a playtest event coming up on monday, and I'm really anxious to get more eyes on our game. :P

(http://i.imgur.com/ky1iMTX.gif) (https://imgur.com/ky1iMTX)

In this version, the game keeps track of players' rating points to give the end of game score more impact, and any future versions can be downloaded by the game itself. Also, Tank units destroy grass and trees as they move. Yay destruction!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 26, 2017, 07:49:18 PM
Finally downloaded and played the game tutorial/demo level :)

It looks really good, and most of the controls are pretty easy to work out/intuitive - I felt I got the hang of it pretty quickly, though I could see that a lot of the possibilities it opened up were complex, which is definitely a good sign. I'd probably have liked an easier way to re-order new actions in the sidebox. I didn't test the sapper or gunner much - it felt like riflemen were usually the sensible option as they didn't seem to cause so much environmental damage generally.

I felt I was a little confused about what the environmental effects were doing exactly. I could see mountains going black, presumably with pollution, and fields going brown and messed up. I'd have liked an easier way to tell what this all meant and its gameplay or score effects though. Maybe an alternative cursor option where mousing over a tile would give a more detailed little note on what it meant/current effects?
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 26, 2017, 09:55:14 PM
Thank you for the feedback! Glad to hear the controls were intuitive; the controls being confusing was the biggest complaint of an earlier version until I swallowed my pride and threw away "my system". Rearranging orders by dragging them is definitely on the todo list, but it keeps getting postponed in favor of other stuff.

Mountains are not turning black, they are just losing their snow due to a drop in humidity. The grass colors change with temperature and humidity, but they don't matter until it turns to dirt. Scorewise we tried to keep it simple: tiles with grass on them are worth 1 point, tiles without are worth nothing. But that is only explained outside the game (in release notes and in the wiki) so it is probably a good idea to show it in-game as well; Daan suggested adding a little overview at the end where a heart pops up out of each grassy tile one by one as the points are being tallied.

We tried to keep the amount of text and numbers on the screen to a minimum in favor of visual cues, but maybe that is not feasible because it is impossible to recognize the visual cues without already knowing the underlying mechanics. Conversely some visual differences (the different tree types or, like you said, grass changing colors) are just there to reflect temperature and don't affect the gameplay at all. Did you see/use the thermometer and hygrometer at all? I was already considering making them larger, but maybe I should also add for example a snow icon that lights up when your mouse is on a snowy tile and that has a tooltip explaining that snow slows down your units movement.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 26, 2017, 10:03:13 PM
I think for general gameplay the screen as is looks good: I feel like what I'd like is the option (perhaps whilst holding a key down, or with a separate "query cursor" selected) to mouse over a tile and see e.g. "Snow Field: Score 1, Slows Movement" or "Mud Field: Score 0" or whatever. I don't think I'd want the tooltips to be coming up just as I was mousing over things normally - it may get intrusive that way.

I did see the thermometer and hygrometer, I wasn't really sure how if at all I could use them though: like with the tile types, I could tell that they were telling me stuff, but wasn't sure how to incorporate that into how I was playing at all.

I'd strongly suggest making the snowless mountain tile a less dark shade of grey and/or making the base of the tile below the mountains a different colour to the slopes. I just assumed there was some kind of pollution thing going on because they looked so black.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 27, 2017, 12:27:55 PM
I feel like what I'd like is the option (perhaps whilst holding a key down, or with a separate "query cursor" selected) to mouse over a tile and see e.g. "Snow Field: Score 1, Slows Movement" or "Mud Field: Score 0" or whatever.
Oh I think I remember Age of Empires 1 having a help funtionality like that. But I fear our mechanics might be too complicated already for that to work; we'd have to upload half our wiki into the game. :P

Quote
I don't think I'd want the tooltips to be coming up just as I was mousing over things normally - it may get intrusive that way.
I was thinking of a tooltip that only appears if you hover the icon specifically, like there is when you hover over the phase icons on the bottom of the screen.

Quote
I could tell that they were telling me stuff, but wasn't sure how to incorporate that into how I was playing at all.
That's a very good point. We're still working out how to get players to play with the environmental mechanics in mind, instead of the weather just being something that "happens", and getting the right kind of information across might be the biggest hurdle in that respect.

Quote
I'd strongly suggest making the snowless mountain tile a less dark shade of grey and/or making the base of the tile below the mountains a different colour to the slopes. I just assumed there was some kind of pollution thing going on because they looked so black.
I'll definitely do that. I've been thinking about reducing the palette somewhat, maybe make the colors of the dirt and mountains more desaturated grays and browns so the green of the grass pops more. Because the green vs. non-green distinction is much more important than dirt vs. mountain.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on November 27, 2017, 02:52:40 PM
I don't think you need every mechanic explained that way, and you certainly don't need to attach the exact numbers to everything (which is what I'd look for in a wiki) but a general idea I don't think should be too hard to tooltip that way. And yeah, I guess a hover-tooltip might work - something to test anyway :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on December 08, 2017, 06:32:32 PM
Since my last post, we reworked the economic gameplay mechanics in the game, by swapping the roles of Cities and Settlements (now called Towns) a bit and by adding farming. Farms can instantly turn all surrounding tiles into Soil tiles, which become Crops that are consumed at night for profits. This can give a huge boost in income, but farmlands are not worth any points at the end of the game and Crops require the right humidity and temperature to grow; you usually do not get any income in winter because it is too cold.

(http://i.imgur.com/BkZuoJm.gif) (https://imgur.com/BkZuoJm)

We also made some changes to structure tiles: capturing them with Rifleman units is easier, producing a unit now costs all of its power, and when destroyed they leave Rubble behind that cannot be built upon. This makes games a lot faster, and hopefully allows for more tactical play rather than just massing units.

And based on feedback from Jubal about a lack of information in-game, we've made the thermometer and hygrometer larger, added tooltips to explain the markings and added little icons that light up when a weather effect such as Firestorm or Gas is active on a tile; these icons have tooltips as well. Hopefully that helps a bit?

(http://i.imgur.com/LGOobH8.png) (https://imgur.com/LGOobH8)

All this in version 0.9.1, which can be downloaded here (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium/releases/latest) or from within the game by clicking the connection icon at the top right of the main menu.
We're having an online beta test session on Saturday between 21:00 (GMT+1) and 01:00 (http://bit.ly/2AHokyO) so hopefully we will get some more feedback from players then.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on December 09, 2017, 02:43:08 PM
I'll try and update & get to the test session, not sure if I'll have time though. Best of luck!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on January 13, 2018, 02:20:23 PM
Hi all! Development slowed down a bit during the holidays, but we're now two weeks into January so time for some progress!
We've just released version 0.13.0 (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium/releases/latest), which should have been 0.12.0; there was a bug in the patcher, so we had to create two new versions just to get everything working again. ::)

(http://i.imgur.com/6zfxp6W.gif) (https://imgur.com/6zfxp6W)

I've changed the look of the game with simpler textures and smooth transitions. Hopefully it's an improvement!
Daan worked on adding sound effects to the game so that the action phase feels more exciting.
It also helps with conveying information, I think: gaining income is accompanied with a coin and a little chirp, and not having enough money has a sad version of the chirp that helps it stand out.

(http://i.imgur.com/1qXj38H.png) (https://imgur.com/1qXj38H)

Also, the in-game tutorial now has prompts to guide the player step-by-step, and plays on a new map against a new AI.
Gameplay wise, we've made building up and economy more important and made the Rifleman unit less oppressive by reducing its maximum size to 3. Industry and Tanks are also cheaper, but Industry lowers the humidity of surrounding tiles four times as fast as before.
The full list changes can be found in the release notes (https://github.com/SLiV9/epicinium/blob/master/RELEASENOTES.md).

We're having another test session tonight (from 21:00 GMT+1 onwards).
I'm thinking about streaming it on Twitch, but I haven't set it up properly so that might have to wait until next week.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on January 15, 2018, 08:02:26 PM
Nice! I really like the smoother tile transitions, especially on grass, though I wonder if cities should retain a straight-edged transition to delinate the move to non-natural space better?

I need to get the new version, but I'm snowed under with work lately :(
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on February 14, 2018, 06:16:25 PM
We've been busy getting Epicinium on other platforms such as itch.io and GameJolt. This got us a lot more downloads but as a result also a lot more bugs to fix. :P

(https://i.imgur.com/xonHOR5.gif)

Besides bugfixes, version 0.16.0 has a completely reworked the weather system. In the old system the temperature ranged from -50 to 100 and the humidity from 0% to 100%. Temperatures would change with the seasons and humidity would drop over time by increments of 5%. Humidity now ranges from 0 to 4 and temperatures has been removed completely; the weather now depend on a combination of the humidity, the current season and the total amount of chaos on the map. For example in Winter all tiles have snow on them, unless they dry out. Firestorm only occurs in Summer and only if 40% of the map has been covered by chaos. The new system is intended to be a bit easier to keep track of and feel less arbitrary.

(https://i.imgur.com/pJAmJk2.png) (https://imgur.com/1iN6quX)


We've added some more UI elements, such as a player list that shows who the other players are. For observers, it also shows how much money they have, which was something I noticed was really lacking since I've started streaming the playtest session every Saturday on my twitch channel (https://www.twitch.tv/sliv9),
I've also started doing some very short featurette videos to explain gameplay mechanics; the first two are about basic combat and Rifleman units respectively. I have a ton more planned but they were a lot harder to produce than I thought, since the one minute recording that you see is preceded by script writing, setting up the levels in the editor and throwing away the recordings that are botched because (a) I misspeak or (b) those damn random damage events keep killing off the wrong riflemen. >:(


Also, we're thinking about adding peacemaking to the game. The idea is that once one of your City tiles is captured, you will have the opportunity to send a peace offer to the other player. During the next planning phase, that player will see the offer you made and can either accept or reject it. Whereas normally the winner gets a number of points and defeated player gets nothing, this would allow the points to be divided amongst both players. If you receive an offer that gets you 75% of the 80 points that you think the map is currently worth, you can choose either to take the 60 points right away or to keep fighting. If you keep fighting for all the points, the destruction of the map might leave you with much less than the 60 points you would have gotten, or your opponent might even make a comeback and you go home empty handed.

I'm curious to know what you think.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on February 17, 2018, 11:26:10 PM
The videos are well put together, good job! Sorry I've not been around much, degree is getting hectic.

I really like the idea of the peace mechanic - I guess part of the question is going to end up being how effectively you can get players to care about their points (which presumably carry over between games) as opposed to just whether they win, which is a tricky one. I feel like it may need something to encourage players to get high points beyond just a readout...
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on February 18, 2018, 09:00:47 PM
Yes, having players care about their score is a big concern for us, especially because the main theme of "At what cost?" relies on the player feeling the consequences even after the game has ended. What we've done so far is have the score affect the players rating points; after every match you lose 10% of your rating and gain 10% of your match score. So if your rating is 30 then you need to score at least 30 points or else your rating will drop. Once we reach more players that have played more than one or two games, we can make this rating system a bit more balanced and add a leader board or something similar.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on February 18, 2018, 09:06:51 PM
I think a good touch might be rating-relevant unlocks of some sort - these don't necessarily have to affect gameplay, and indeed probably shouldn't or you'll end up with a "stacking" system where good players just pile up higher and higher ratings, but it'd be good to attack some tangible reward to ratings. I think graphics might be a way to do this: for example, people with higher ratings might get the option of more custom city tilesets to use in games. That'd be a good way to very visibly "show off" a high rating within games such that other players might be more driven to do so, without it affecting gameplay. I don't know if it's possible with your engine particularly, but maybe give it some thought. I think you might need something like that to keep players caring about ratings, anyhow.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on February 18, 2018, 09:33:14 PM
Oh that's an interesting idea. Maybe players start with tathered dirty buildings, and the higher their rating the more clean and modern their buildings become. It should definitely be possible technically, although it would of course require investing more time in spriting. I guess if there's a monthly challenge of "get a rating of at least X to unlock the special seasonal city tiles" it would only require a couple of hours each month.

I do worry that it would negatively affect the readability of the game, though. But maybe that's just a problem to solve instead of a reason not to do it.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on February 25, 2018, 02:12:22 PM
Hm, yeah. It might be challenging, but I think the payoff could be worth it, otherwise I feel like the buzz of "I won" for most players will usually outweigh the "but I could get more points doing X".
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Tusky on March 18, 2018, 08:49:34 AM
Just had a playthrough on v0.17 - I liked it!


I actually just went straight into a mission without playing the tutorial, and managed to win that so it's very intuitive.


One thing I couldn't tell was how to determine what decided the "initiative" of units - in that sometimes I would send a unit in to attack an enemy unit, but they would occasionally move before me? So I went back and tried the tutorial but it didn't seem to mention it.


Other thoughts:
- Love the pixel art graphics
- Sound effects are cool
- No ambient music?
- Victory effect was very nice
- The tutorial AI seemed to have more units that the easy AI managed to build in my first mission


Very good fun though. I look forward to seeing how you progress  :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on March 18, 2018, 01:18:17 PM
Glad you liked it! ;D

There's no real initiative, just turn order. Both players have a list of orders - you can see yours at the right side of the screen - and the game alternates between the two. So player 1 executes the first order on their list, then player 2 the first on theirs, then the second order of player 1, the second of player 2, etcetera. But because of fog of war, you don't always know whether they gave an order before you or if you were the first player.  We're still debating whether first player advantage should be hidden information or public information. What does matter is that new orders are always appended at the bottom of your list of orders, so it can be advantageous to regive old orders to put them at the back of the queue, so your important attack order goes off first.

Ambient music is something UnarmedLad is still working on (he also did the title screen music). We are planning on having tracks that can fade in and fade out seemlessly so that the music can reflect what is going on; more exciting music during the action phase, more bombastic music when you've built a lot of tanks.

Yeah it might be that the tutorial AI starts out with an extra Rifleman unit, because the easy AI's take a while before they make any units. It's also a bit random because the easy AI might randomly not make units. We haven't spent enough time on building AI's because it is hard to keep updating them every time we rework the gameplay. :P But the next update has a new AI type that I'm eager to show off. It's the first that can make Sapper units and use them to bombard your buildings.

Thanks for the feedback!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Tusky on March 18, 2018, 06:15:43 PM
ohh of course, it's the turn order you assign! I'm a dope  ::)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on March 22, 2018, 09:53:01 PM
We've just released version 0.18.0 which adds password-protected accounts, some gameplay changes and a new RampantRhino AI that can upgrade barracks and build sappers.

Writing an account system took a decent chunk of time, but it should reduce the amount of people that had to create a new account every time they switched PCs. Now that the user database is online we can better intergrate it other web systems; next week we will be working on adding a leaderboard. We also have a website (https://www.epicinium.nl) now, which links back to our itch.io page, shows how many people are online in the Discord and allows people to subscribe to our mailing list.

(https://i.imgur.com/3WAQlV3.png) (https://www.epicinium.nl)

Gameplay wise, we made Industry and Barracks require a manual upgrade to increase their size. This should be more intuitive than requiring you to build more Cities nearby, and it allowed us to make Cities cheaper while keeping the cost of upgraded Industry and Barrack very high. We also reworked Frostbite to more interactive. Instead of lowering hitpoints, it now directly deals damage to ground units standing in open fields.

(https://i.imgur.com/m9V2sgQ.gif)

This forces players to have them seek shelter in nearby forests, cities or trenches. Or not, if you decide you have better things to spend your orders on. >:D
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Tusky on March 23, 2018, 08:38:54 AM
Look forward to checking out the amendments. I never noticed being afflicted by frost bite, does it require a certain number of exposed turns to proc?


New website is looking good. I'll try and join for for a playtest sometime. I'm often doing something then but next time I'm not  :D
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on March 23, 2018, 10:03:24 AM
Frostbite is one of the effects of global warming, so it only appears in longer games or games involving industry.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on March 31, 2018, 11:03:35 PM
Quote
Frostbite is one of the effects of global warming
Best and most ironic global warming effect :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on April 01, 2018, 11:15:55 AM
Climate change would be a more accurate term, I suppose, but global warming just has a nice ring to it. :balrog:
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on April 01, 2018, 11:47:24 AM
Well, the globe is warming as a whole, so it's a reasonable term - just always interesting (and apparently for some people, confusing) that global warming doesn't necessarily mean immediate local warming.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on April 29, 2018, 11:56:41 AM
We released version 0.21.0 this week, where we tried to improve the order list UI and make it more intuitive and manageable. Orders now float from the center of the screen towards the order list:

(https://i.imgur.com/wgkG08M.gif)

You can now drag around orders within your order list, and we've also added a little gizmo that shows  which player has initiative each round.

(https://i.imgur.com/iTIe4X6.gif)     (https://i.imgur.com/mRSDGfp.png)

No gameplay changes because we mostly want to focus on growing our playerbase, which isn't going as fast as we would like. On top of that we're also trying to found a cooperative, which comes with its own set of fiscal topics we need to delve into and crazy notary costs. :-\

We were working on a gameplay change, but it ended up not making the cut; we noticed that a lot of FFA matches tended to drag out a lot because at some point all players have highly upgraded industry or barracks tiles and just keep sending wave after wave of tanks and gunners without achieving anything. We think this is because money stops being a factor after a while, so it is harder to gain an advantage over your opponent; capturing or destroying a Town does nothing since they have enough money, and killing their units is not effective if they can afford to rebuild them. So we came up with Morale as a second resource next to money, that was collected by exploring the map. We had hoped that in the late game, when all players have a seemingly unlimited amount of money, it would force players to explore unexplored areas of the map and thereby creating a new focal point. In practice though our current maps are laid out in such a way that you explore almost all of them as you are attacking your opponent, so you just end up generating an endless supply of Morale in the early game and it would only factor in as a "clock" that ultimately limits the amount of units you can make. So we scrapped it for now, and just made the FFA maps smaller, which seems to help a little. Maybe we should just rebalance unit costs a little bit so you are decentivized to hoard up a ton of money.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on April 29, 2018, 02:18:01 PM
Whilst I've only really done founding of things in the UK, I've now helped found three or four societies/associations of different sorts and you're welcome to consult me on things like constitution-writing :)

You could add a decay factor on wealth generation methods like industry, so they decrease their output over time as resources run out?
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on April 30, 2018, 09:32:44 PM
Whilst I've only really done founding of things in the UK, I've now helped found three or four societies/associations of different sorts and you're welcome to consult me on things like constitution-writing :)
Well we feel reasonably confidant that we can come up with solid constitutions, but the notary charges more for a homewritten constitution than they do for changing a boilerplate one. So we have to scrap the stuff we wrote and figure out which parts of it are worth getting charged for. Same thing with the tax authority, every time we think we've figured out how the Dutch tax law works we realize we also have to figure out how they think the tax law works. ::)

Quote
You could add a decay factor on wealth generation methods like industry, so they decrease their output over time as resources run out?
Yeah, that would probably be the best solution, and for income from farming this already applies. Cities and towns however grow during the match so they only become more valuable, and if you upgrade Industry it also generates more income. One thing we are considering is having cities and towns lose power at night if their surroundings become too ugly, and similarly have industry lose power if the surrounding cities cannot sustain them. But it might feel a bit punishing if you suddenly lose power in the middle of the game without spending it.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on May 02, 2018, 11:44:01 PM
Aie, yeah... it sounds like you've got a more bureaucratic system than the UK too, then, as regards setting stuff up.

And yes, I think I need to play the game a bit more to try any more detailed suggestions. I'm just struggling for time as usual.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on May 22, 2018, 11:52:18 AM
Yesterday we released version 0.23.0 with some big gameplay changes, including a new unit: the Militia. The Militia replaces the Rifleman as the starting unit and has basically the same stats, except it only has 1 hitpoint.

(https://i.imgur.com/M6gCVBd.gif)   (https://i.imgur.com/uaihX68.gif)

The Rifleman is now built at the Barracks and remains the only unit that can capture enemy tiles, so we changed the win condition to include occupying all enemy City tiles simultaneously. This was mostly done because mass producing Rifleman units seemed to be the strongest strategy and once a player captured one City from an opponent, they had a massive advantage; not only does the opponent lose the income and production of that City, but the capturing player gains extra income and production as well. The hope is that Militia units occupying your City tiles are easier to get rid of due to their lower hitpoints and the fact that once the Militia is gone, you immediately regain control of your City tile.

We also made it possible to produce units in tiles that you are defending with a friendly unit by having the produced unit spawn next to the defender and move to an adjacent tile. After we reworked the AIs to be able to handle these gameplay changes, the RampantRhino AI seemed to be lot better at defending because it no longer avoided placing its units on its own tiles.
The last big gameplay change is that Tank units can no longer attack and must rely on their Shell ability to wreak havoc. This was mostly done because it was harded to defend against them using only Militia, but it also fits the fantasy of cumbersome but unyielding tanks that must take their time to aim.

Lastly we reworked the UI and added a newspaper as a little announcement every time global warming crosses another threshold and new disastrous weather effects are unlocked.

(https://i.imgur.com/iZXZKuq.png)

We're running a little round robin tournament over on our Discord server (http://discord.gg/XktTKrH) which is going well; round 2 is starting this week with the new gameplay changes, so I'm curious to see how these gameplay changes alter everyones' strategies.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on May 23, 2018, 12:38:01 PM
Ooh, the newspaper style thing is fun :) The game has an interestingly C20th feel considering global warming is quite a C21st phenomenon.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on May 25, 2018, 03:44:46 PM
Yeah, we're blending a lot of time periods together; the trenches and zeppelins are reminiscent of WW1, the tanks are more WW2 and we also have nuclear bombs planned. There was no deliberate message behind it when we started it, but it does feel appropriate that the game applies just as much to the world in 1918 as to the world in 2018.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on June 07, 2018, 10:47:41 PM
Yes, that's a good point :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on July 06, 2018, 10:36:09 PM
After a lot of research into the Dutch laws on cooperatives and their constitutions, Daan and I are now A Bunch of Hacks (https://www.abunchofhacks.coop)! This did mean that we couldn't spend a lot of time on actual gamedev, so it had been a while since our last release. In today's release, version 0.25.0, we've integrated Stomt (https://www.stomt.com/epicinium) into our game, so you can give feedback or upload log files directly from within the game. We've also added some dust particles and other particles to add a little bit more juice to animations.

(https://i.imgur.com/TUJNzZD.gif)

The big new feature is weekly challenges. We wanted to give players a bit more reason to rejoin even when no one else is online, and we thought challenges would be a nice way to add some variation to the gameplay without having to worry too much about balance. We're thinking of making challenges with crazy rulesets, such as all units have double speed, or the player has unlimited money, etcetera. For now, the first challenge just uses the normal rules, but the enemy starts with a lot more units than you.

(http://i.imgur.com/FAfyPTV.png) (https://imgur.com/FAfyPTV)

The rules are explained in a little mission briefing, which is supposed to be written by the General, the main advisor in the singleplayer campaign that we're planning to add in the future. At the end of each challenge you are awarded with stars, and you can accumulate stars by completing a new challenge each week. Getting the third star is intended to be quite difficult; I don't think Daan has beat it yet. :P
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on July 08, 2018, 10:16:48 PM
Well done on getting the co-op stuff sorted! That's great news :)

Missions sound really neat as well - definitely a good addition.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on September 01, 2018, 09:18:53 PM
Is it september already? :o

The two of us are running dangerously low on funds, so we've had to divide our time between developing, setting up a crowdfunding campaign and panicking. We did release version 0.28.2 yesterday, so that's something.

(https://i.imgur.com/eHqDzgy.png)

Other than implementing a self-patching patcher, I've been spending a lot of time on improving the UI in various ways. I made some monochrome icons for each type of unit, building and order, and these icons are now used consistently between the order panels (shown above) and the order guides and order list (shown below). We also added some hitstop to attack impacts, both to give them more oomph and to make the attack animations more readable. We hope that the more prominent hitmarkers help players to follow along with the way that damage is distributed.

(https://i.imgur.com/MLn60Zg.gif)     (https://i.imgur.com/cSXkiQq.gif)

We noticed that players are having a hard time finding each other in our in-game lobby system, so therefore we've been focussing a lot of our attention on improving our Discord server (https://discord.gg/vQhTURC), and making it the center of our playerbase. One thing we've done is integrating Discord Rich Presence, which means the game shows up next to Discord users' names while they are playing, even showcasing the map, game mode and match duration. It also allows users to post invite links in the chat.

(https://i.imgur.com/ZwlyFfn.png)

Starting next week we also want to have automated mini-tournaments every week: Discord users can join the tournament at any time, play a game against another participant on any map and the winner is awarded tournament points. The winner gets three stars (the same that you get for completing challenges), and the other participants do as well based on their total score that week. We're hoping that the free-form nature of those tournaments will stimulate more of our players to play games against each other.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on September 12, 2018, 11:26:56 PM
Let us know when your crowdfunding campaign is ready and the Exilian twitter etc can shout about it a bit :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on September 13, 2018, 10:03:28 AM
Thanks, will do! ;D
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: beebug_nic on September 13, 2018, 03:37:57 PM
Wow, I've just noticed this project - it looks really interesting! Am following it with great interest :-)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on September 16, 2018, 02:53:40 PM
Thanks! :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on September 25, 2018, 12:45:28 PM
As our crowdfunding is approaching, we decided to bring the open beta to a close, in exchange for a closed beta centered around our Discord server (https://discord.gg/vQhTURC). Starting with version 0.29.0, a beta access key is required to join the server. People that played in the open beta automatically gain a key if they enter the Discord, and we give away keys to active community members as well. A couple of people with very low account ids came back to join the Discord, and we got some legit key requests from press as well, so that's nice.

Keys can be entered in the main menu. We spent probably too much time improving the text input fields by adding copy and paste functionality, as well as the ability to select text with the mouse or with the shift key. UX is hard work, who knew?

(https://i.imgur.com/cy13oT3.gif)   (https://i.imgur.com/Ptbzmj2.gif)

We also worked on improving the pathing, so that unit figures walk around buildings instead of through them. There are still a few quirks, though, and sometimes a newly spawned unit just bugs out and starts dancing up and down the tile before moving to its spawn position. Huh.

All in all, the switch to closed beta seems to have been a good step, as we're having a lot more activity between players than before. I'm having one of those "if only I had known this a year ago" moments, but yeah. Probably not the last one I'll get before this whole thing is over.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 07, 2018, 12:10:35 AM
In case you hadn't seen, got this into the latest updates:
https://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5773

:)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 07, 2018, 09:10:50 AM
Yeah, I saw. Thank you for writing them, Jubal! There is always a bunch of cool stuff featured in it.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Tusky on October 12, 2018, 09:55:19 AM
How is the impending crowdfunding campaign coming along?
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 12, 2018, 10:41:39 AM
It's coming along well, but our deadline is getting closer and we still have some things to finish. Lot of half-baked goods waiting for other things to get done first.

We shot footage for the crowdfunding video yesterday. This is the second session, because we weren't happy with the script we used last time (which was a couple months ago?). We also shot a lot of B-roll last time though, so that's good. We're currently getting help with writing our marketing texts from a member of the only other Dutch gamedev coop, and came down from the Far North to help shoot as well. So now: onto editing!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 12, 2018, 12:13:44 PM
It's interesting that there's only two... not that you have time currently, but sometime I'd love to have a chat with you about the process of that and write it up, having some good articles on how to set up co-ops is something I feel Exilian could usefully do :)

Hope the footage editing goes well!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 12, 2018, 12:17:00 PM
Well I believe that there might also be one or two coops for boardgames, and maybe one subsidiary of a major Dutch gamedev company that probably only exists for fiscal reasons.

I'd love to talk with you about that, but yeah, maybe in 2019? ;D
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 12, 2018, 08:34:54 PM
Given my schedule, yes, 2019 sounds about right :p
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 19, 2018, 11:24:51 PM
We just announced (https://twitter.com/EpiciniumGame/status/1053345664665554944) our Kickstarter date: November 1st! Here's a little gif of us preparing the kickstarter video last week (I'm the one in the checkered shirt):

(https://i.imgur.com/Ak6Krmc.gif)

This leaves us with only two weeks of frantic editing, gifmaking and navigating awful wysiwyg textfields, but we haved managed to squeeze in one more game update: beta version 0.30.0. We implemented a lot more visual cues to help convey information and in general just make the game stand out more. For instance we updated the lighting system; the lighting now also changes with explosions or gunfire, and we highlight the active unit during the Action phase. Another thing we did was dim the building lights when a tile is occupied, with a little flicker effect to further emphasis the sudden change.

(https://i.imgur.com/TXxJlGf.gif)   (https://i.imgur.com/bN7e1jL.gif)

We've also added visual markers to the damaging weather effects such as Frostbite or Firestorm, because it was sometimes hard to see which tiles were affected and which were not. At the same time, we saw a lot of players struggling with the large volume and unpredictable placement of Firestorm, opting to keep their units safely inside for the entire Summer. In combination with Frostbite during the Winter, this caused some games to stall out for longer than intended. We drastically reduced the number tiles that receive Firestorm, but made them always hit "flammable" tiles (Grass, Forest, Soil, Crops and Trenches) if possible. This has multiple benefits: it makes the placement more predictable so players can anticipate where it will be, even in the fog of war; it drives gunners out of trenches but does not deter units from crossing deserts; and it remains an effective tool to lower the number of grass tiles (and hence the score).

(https://i.imgur.com/aFzqs2Q.gif)

I think there are more issues with the pacing of the game, but they are harder too tackle without extensive prototyping, so that will have to wait until after the kickstarter.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 24, 2018, 11:26:16 AM
Excellent! And yeah... theoretical thought, it'd be interesting to try doing an experiment where you gave people the same mechanic with different names and visual effects and saw if it affected their gameplay more or less. I wonder if some are actively scarier than others.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on October 24, 2018, 07:05:46 PM
Oh for sure, perception probably plays a huge role. You'd need a huge audience to do that kind of A/B testing, though.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: Jubal on October 24, 2018, 11:04:14 PM
Yeah. It's the sort of thing that needs much better links between academics and the bigger game dev industry players sadly - MMOs would be more the sort of arena where you could really rely on a usefully sized test sample.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics
Post by: SLiV on November 01, 2018, 04:05:10 PM
Good news everyone! Epicinium is now live on Kickstarter! (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1757627321/epicinium-environmental-turn-based-strategy?ref=bgqbli) ;D

(https://i.imgur.com/PbIKc0b.png) (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1757627321/epicinium-environmental-turn-based-strategy?ref=bgqbli)

Things we have discovered so far:

So now it's sit back and relax, right?
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: Jubal on November 03, 2018, 07:13:25 PM
Got my pledge in already :)

And an Exilian frontpage for that lovely illustration too: https://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5795

I've got a FB post out about it too, and I'll get some Twitter stuff scheduled.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: SLiV on November 03, 2018, 08:41:17 PM
Thank you so much Jubal! Also for featuring us in the newsletter on Thursday. I saw them come by earlier just didn't have the time then to thank you. The first 48 hours have been really hectic.

The illustration was a bit of a last minute commission, but we're really happy with it. Really captures the spirit of Epicinium, I think. Also makes me even more determined to do a water-based expansion after, if we ever get there.

Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: Jubal on November 03, 2018, 09:33:26 PM
No problem, I know these sorts of campaigns are a huge stretch on people (having been helping run Exilian for as long as I have, I've seen a fair few of them pass through at this point!). Very best of luck with it :)
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: Tusky on November 05, 2018, 09:29:22 AM
backed!

Best of luck
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: SLiV on November 05, 2018, 10:08:13 AM
Thanks a lot!
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: SLiV on November 29, 2018, 05:15:27 PM
As we have entered the final 72 hours of the campaign, we're sitting at 35%, so it will be a steep climb if we still manage to make it.  :-X

We decided to open up the beta for everyone for this period, so that those interested in the Kickstarter can try out the game for themselves. We released version 0.31.0 to accommodate them by allowing Discord users to play as a guest without registering, and we improved the tutorial by adding icons that match the graphics used in the game, because people were having troubles matching the names of the units with the icons that the UI uses.

(https://i.imgur.com/FkYEg3Y.png)

We also added stars to the surface texture of City tiles, to make them more uniquely identifiable. The objective of the game is to "occupy or destroy all enemy City tiles", but when people read or hear this, they don't yet know the difference between City tiles, Town tiles etcetera, so they might think they need to capture all enemy tiles. This makes them play very methodically, which can be fun but it can also make games drag on for far longer than they need to.

In general, games taking too long is one of the main concerns I have about the game right now. I have been re-reading some articles by the Wayward Strategist, which I found very helpful. Although they are mostly about RTS games, I think they still apply to Epicinium because we based a lot of economic game design on Age of Empires and StarCraft. What I noticed when looking at positive and negative feedback loops, was that all of our positive feedback loops that exist in the early game seem to disappear in the late game. For example, having map control gives a huge economic advantage early on, because the opponent is neither able to build up their economy safely nor sufficiently able to launch a counterattack. However once a player has amounted a large enough advantage that both players would agree that that player will probably end up winning, it can still take a while for their opponent to be defeated. This is because all of the winning players units have to walk all the way across the map, whereas the defending player can create units inside the tiles that they are trying to defend. This, in combination with the intentional negative feedback loop of having a hard limit on the number of new orders you can give per turn, can cause games to stall out a bit.

So I think the main game design challenge I would want to solve next month, would be to flip this around: if there are some negative feedback loops in the early game that dissolve as the game goes on, and more positive feedback loops or at least game systems that become more volative as the game goes on, then hopefully games will be shorter and stay exciting throughout. The tricky part is not making it feel artificial, of course. I'm thinking about adding a new resource to the game, or making different types of units cost different resources. Because one of the reasons it is currently hard to come back from a defensive position, is that you need money, power and orders to produce defenses, and those same resources are used to build your economy, or to launch a counterattack. You can only win by expanding your economy or doing something something sneaky, but you can only prevent a loss by building defenses. Games would be more interesting if you could do both at the same time, because now it sometimes leads to players just holding on for the sake of holding on, which can be frustrating for either player. I myself am guilty of this, by the way, as evidenced by last weeks dev match (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/339742218?t=00h09m40s). (The matches were still very fun, however.)

(http://i.imgur.com/vsko1aj.png)

Well, this turned out to be a bit more of a ramble than I had planned. But that's good, I needed to come up with a new devlog topic anyway. :P
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: Jubal on December 01, 2018, 10:47:28 AM
One thing I'm reminded of is the Civ II think where you had partisan units that could appear after a city was taken - something like that which could give a rapid unit production thing to a defending player could help them turn the situation around without pressuring them to play too defensively, if you want a more aggressive game overall.

I'm not sure how I feel about the star thing - I think it's good that they have something more to mark them out, but I feel like some other marker might fit the general look more?

Sorry to see that the Kickstarter doesn't quite look like it'll getting there - I gave it one last shout-out in the new newsletter.
Title: Re: Epicinium - strategy wargame with environmental mechanics - Now on Kickstarter!
Post by: SLiV on December 01, 2018, 11:43:30 AM
Ooh that might be interesting. The downside of producing riflemen at cities is that it lowers the power of the city and hence its income, thereby making a comeback even more difficult. But if rebels spawned for "free" if cities were captured or destroyed, that might buy the defending player some time to spend their resources on a counterattack.

Yeah the star is not my most inspired work. I'm mostly curious if it would actually work to reduce the confusion about the game objectives. I should watch some replays to see if new players play more focussed now.

Thanks for the shoutout, Jubal. :)