Thursday, January 10, 2013

Valley 2 Beta .713 "Scatter And Gather" Released!

This one further refines the controls to a really precise degree, majorly upgrades three spell groups, and adds three new monsters.

As if that wasn't enough, this one also comes with our next major batch of strategic game changes -- perhaps the most major we'll be making this month, we'll see.  There will certainly be more refinements to be made, but I think this is -- knock on wood -- likely to be the largest fundamental shift.

The strategic game, circa a week ago, centered mostly around capturing buildings, holding them to gain resources, and repeatedly rebuilding them as the overlord knocked them down.  You'd increase NPC skills by sending them on missions, and you could only undertake two missions per turn, regardless of how many NPCs you had together. 

So there was strong incentive for banding together.  Having NPCs attack buildings or convert/rebuild structures was their main function, because to do scavenging or "working a tile" (such as a farm or scrap factory) was too wasteful with limited total dispatches.

The strategic game, as of this release, focuses a lot more on individual NPCs in a bit of a different way.  Gone are their skill levels, and gone are the overall limits on how many dispatches per turn you can make (but each NPC can still only do one thing per turn).  Also, critically, gone is the passive income from buildings you hold.

In order to gain income from buildings, you have to station NPCs there.  But it's a bit of a game of "chicken," because the overlord will eventually be bearing down on their building (to destroy it permanently), and they need to wring all the resources they can out of that building before it goes down.

Similarly, with buildings that can be converted to other buildings types, you want to do that with care.  It's a matter of managing the resources of your NPCs (where they are and how many you have) as well as managing the resources of "potential buildings I can use that the overlord hasn't torn down yet."

This isn't a sustainable situation, critically -- as with a Warcraft II map, for instance, if you play long enough then the map runs out of resources and that's just the end of things.  In the case of this game, by the time you'd hit that point you'd likely have lost anyhow for other reasons, but it is a pretty fundamental difference in terms of how the game plays out compared to a week ago.

Going along with this, since you've got to be ordering around so many more NPCs so much of the time, rather than just a few groups of many of them, we've really streamlined the interface for giving them orders.  Also, a lot more of the orders you give are implicit.

NPCs can only do one of two things on a turn: take some action on the tile they are on, or move.  You give them their movement orders, if any, and you also give them orders to build structures (since otherwise there's no way to know what sort of structure you want them to build).

Otherwise, beyond that, you express your will simply by positioning them -- put them next to enemy structures, and they'll attack.  Put them on a farm, and they'll farm. 

Our goal has been to make the strategy game deeper than it was a week ago, which I think we've accomplished, while at the same time making it something that takes less time for you to input your decisions with.  And I think we've accomplished that also.  Certainly there are more conveniences and tweaks that can be made on that front, and the balance is preliminary at best with the revised  mechanics. 

But these mechanics do really seem to get at our core goals a lot better without really changing terribly much of the code or interface in the grand scheme of things.  In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the sort of changes that were being made to AI War late in its alpha/beta (which was private), rather than the flailing that sometimes went on with Valley 1.

Once again, thanks for bearing with us as we go through this refinement process; pre-existing worlds can certainly be upgraded into this new version, but you may find that the balance is really off with them if they came from before 0.712 release.  Sorry about that; it's not something we intend to do a lot of.  But it definitely improves things for the better.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  If you have the beta on Steam, it will automatically update for you.  When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have the standalone game, you can download that hereIf you already own the first game, just use your existing license key to unlock the sequel for free!

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