Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Skyward Collapse 1.4 Beta "Dawn Hits The Cave Of Monsters " Released!

This one... oh good grief.  Where to even start!  This thing is incredibly huge -- so much so, that we're releasing it as a beta version prior to moving it into the official branch.

So be cautious with this update if you just want to play the game.  You'll get these changes soon enough when version 1.5 is fully ready hopefully next week (based on further updates to this), but in the meantime anyone who updates to the beta is a bit of a guinea pig.

Impact To Casual/Light Players Of The Game
If you just kind of play the game casually for fun, and aren't playing on high difficulties or really internalizing a lot of the specific rules and balance of the game, my feeling is that this release will not change all that much for you.  Hopefully.

At least not much that you have to re-learn, anyway.  Mostly I think it would be things that you ignored because they seemed useless, but which you now find interesting because they are useful suddenly.  Or of course you'll notice new content like extra monsters, monster caves, and ally camps... but these are things that are added on and conceptually straightforward, not something you have to re-learn.

Town specialization likely wouldn't hit you at all unless you are a bit more advanced.  The resource cost shifts on the human units are really easy to adapt to because it's right there in the tooltip and there are only a few changes in general.  And the new system for more-specialized human unit bonuses again probably won't matter much if you're more casual with things (and likely you were already ignoring it, so if you do wind up needing to learn these, it will be for the first time, not the second).

So that's pretty much it, as far as the less-intensive players are concerned.  Some things are refined and easier, there's new content, and then a bunch of stuff they already weren't using got changed around.  Some of that they still won't use unless they graduate to being a more advanced player, and other things they will learn to use for the first time like anything else.

That's the intent.  If there's anywhere this breaks down, do let me know; I want to make the transition here not be a jarring one for these sorts of players, so comments on this are quite welcome.

General Cumulative Effects To Balance For The Advanced Player
Yeah, you have to relearn the game from the ground up, in terms of balance.  What you build and when is out the window, and most advanced strategies will need to be re-thought. 

Based on the feedback from this camp, I think that these changes will all be very welcome, and the whole point is really to make the game have more lasting complexity at this level of play.  Or more to the point, to keep things from becoming routine and something you can just use the same strategy on over and over again.  So in that light, it's not like you have to re-learn any new strategies: you just have to start thinking on your feet in new ways, and you have both new tools and new challenges to do so.

Trade is something I'm really excited about now; I think it fills a really cool role in advanced play.  There is more I plan to do with the currency resource, as well, hopefully in the next couple of updates and then also in the first expansion.

The town specialization and building upgrades in general really change the resource model, and towns have to be planned more carefully.  In my limited testing this seems to work out really well, but I'll be quite interested to know how it fits into your larger game play sessions across more playstyles.

The new mix of monster caves and ally camps in addition to the existing bandit keeps should prove interesting as well.  I've done a lot of testing to try to get the spawn rates on all these to a sensible level, but a big part of the reason that this is going out as a beta is that I'm worried I have not really got this to a level that feels right.  Feedback on this would be extremely extremely welcome.

The counterpoint to the new bandit and ally spawns is of course the new functionality of the embassy building.  This isn't unlocked right from the start of the game, though, so it needs to have some sensible balance either way.  But for games on expert, you may well need embassies, or at least they may be a key part of the strategy on many maps, who knows.

Specific Effects To Balance For The Advanced Player
There are some specific things to keep in mind.

1.  Overall your methods for generating and using resources are going to be really affected.  How do you build up which towns?  Previously that wasn't really a problem, and resources were really plentiful by late-game.

2.  The way that you'll have to deal with units on the board is in general very different now, too.  The humans are going to wind up being a goodly bit less effective against mythologicals now that mythologicals now don't have classes other than just "mythological."  Humans were getting bonuses against mythos kind of by accident.  

And now the mix of humans that you have versus what other humans are out there matters a TON more.  And then of course the new mix of bandit mythos will make you consider other things differently, too.

3. There are now more secondary side strategies, I think.  Some interesting things could be done based off of generating a lot of trade, for instance; you could really ramp up score there in some interesting fashions, as well as now you could have some undefended-by-units towns as a strange sort of honey pot that keeps certain enemy units occupied (nobody with adamantine or whatever, but still). 

Or you could pursue lots of embassies to keep the challenge a lot lower from bandits, but that comes with a really high AP cost and also takes a lot of real estate.  In turn that's also going to hurt your ability to generate points, so you'd have to pair this with some other high-points strategy.

All in all, I think that the possibilities for advanced players got a lot more interesting, in other words.

Late Game Goodies For All
So the late game getting a bit boring was a general complaint people had.  I think that should hopefully be dispelled now, even without the heroes and villains thing.  More on that in a sec.

The general types of bandit monsters that are getting spawned shifts in each of the ages now, and the ones that you see in the Age of Gods are pretty intense.  The idea being that there is definitely a feeling of ramp-up here.  There are a few other changes to make this last age more intense, too.

These things, plus the other recent changes like the Armageddon option and so forth, should hopefully make it so that the game does not peter out at the end.

The heroes and villains idea has been pushed back to the second expansion, because it was just too huge of an undertaking to really do right, AND because I was really worried about the added complexity to the end of the base game.  For people who already have the base game relatively mastered, expansions that add complexity are awesome.  For someone brand new... well, we don't want their first experience to be too complex or that might be their last experience, if you take my meaning.

What Else Is Going On?
This update (plus the ones before it) probably represent 90% of what will be in the "2.0" update to the base game.  The remaining things I want to change or add are all incremental refinements, and then of course polish on the changes that have been made so far here.  So that's really coming along well -- we still have a bit more than a month until 2.0 will come out, so that's some excellent time for testing.

I do still want to update the font, though; and I also want to get the attack and death effects looking a bit better.  I haven't forgotten about the font stuff, anyway!

The first expansion for the game, Nihon no Mura, will be ready to start beta in the next week or two, which I'm also excited about.  The art for the new Japanese faction is almost complete, which is very exciting.  And the art for two new terrain types and the new military outposts are also done.  The art for the hamlets is coming along, but it took us a while to find just the right artist for that to split the work with Blue (because it's too much for one person).

The coding for the expansion hasn't even started yet, but now that the 2.0 update code is pretty much done, that will keep me from having to split my focus, which is good.  Coding-wise, I should be able to knock a lot of that out.

In non-Skyward news, Keith is working away on the coding and implementation for Bionic Dues, and we're working on finding colorists for the game (we've already got a sketch artist doing awesome work for it).  And Keith and I are tag-teaming the design there.  It's coming along well I think, and it's definitely an exciting project for us.  A turn-based tactical... kind of roguelike-ish... strategic... thing.  I'll get better at describing it before we start a beta for it. ;)  That one probably will come out in October for 1.0, and probably in late August or early September for beta.

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.  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.

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