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Messages - SLiV

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1
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. :)

2
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.



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. (The matches were still very fun, however.)



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

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Looks great! Can't wait to try it out someday.

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Exilian Articles / Re: Bosch, Breugel, Beelzebub and Baphomet
« on: November 07, 2018, 01:32:13 PM »
Lovely article! Bosch and Breugel are my two favorite painters. I'd love to make a game at some point featuring these types of crazy demons, or with rumor-based depictions of animals such as the giraffe from Garden of Earthly Delights.

I think Four Last Things comes close; it is still on my wishlist.

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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.


7
Good news everyone! Epicinium is now live on Kickstarter! ;D



Things we have discovered so far:
  • WYSIWYG editors are awful.
  • Gifs getting reencoded is awful.
  • Stressing because the page won't launch because you still have changes open in a different tab is awful.
  • People are really great!

So now it's sit back and relax, right?

8
Oh for sure, perception probably plays a huge role. You'd need a huge audience to do that kind of A/B testing, though.

9
We just announced 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):



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.

 

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).



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.

10
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

11
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!

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Yeah, I saw. Thank you for writing them, Jubal! There is always a bunch of cool stuff featured in it.

13
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. 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?

 

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.

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Happiness

The visitors all have a happiness value now that goes up or down depending on various things - such as if they want to eat but cant, enjoyed a fight etc.

Whilst doing this I realised an issue: The visitors just wander to and fro & when they need anything they go right to any venue that can provide for that need. So if a new outlet is placed - they'll one by one go to it, and end up looking like a horde of zombies.

So what difference did it make where the player put anything?

I think the answer - like in all other simulation games... is to use paths to direct where people generally go.
It would have been nice to not use them just because it would have set tourney apart a little bit. More like real "crowd in field" situations, where people would just wander about. Still I think it is something people will "get" and provides a neat solutioon

What if there is a limit to the distance where peasants detect new venues? So if everyone is thirsty and you place a new beer vendor, nearby peasants will swarm towards it, but peasants further removed will keep wandering until they stumble across it. Perhaps in combination with paths; if they are more likely to follow paths then you can direct them towards your vendors that way. Don't know how much computing power it would take to track all that, though, since each peasant would have its own memory of what the map looks like.

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