Monday, February 27, 2012

AVWW Beta 0.583 "The Elusive Lumbermancer" Released!

This one is another one focused on usability and clarity.  It also fixes a number of bugs, improves the graphics of a few areas, adds a sixth difficulty level, and adds the ability to start on the second continent for expert players.

Professions And Guardian Power Shortages Resolved
One of the big changes in this version is to make the first four settlement structures automatically appear in your first settlement of the game -- that gives you a little bit less to worry about when you're new to the game, or when you're just trying to get your budding civilization off the ground even if you know what you're doing.  Settlements beyond the first still start as empty, so we haven't really simplified the game, we've just made a more natural complexity/difficulty progression -- always a good goal.

As part of this shift, we've also made the ability to find NPCs of key professions a lot less random -- some players were having to search for ages and ages for lumbermancers, for instance, because the random number generator was being too unkind to them.  We've thus changed things around to keep that aspect of gameplay more streamlined as well, when it comes to NPCs rescued via secret missions (as opposed to guardian powers).

All in all?  A lot of even advanced players who were having trouble getting to the point of being able to use guardian powers should now be able to enjoy them (and thus the game) on a new level.  And by the time they hit their next continent, they'll be amply prepared for filling up that empty settlement from the start.

More Planning Menu Work, But More To Come
The planning menu is quickly becoming the go-to source for pretty much all of the longer-term direction in the game.  It now has been organized into four major categories: status of your continent, things you should do, where to find stuff you want, and an encyclopedia.

Moving a lot of the more detailed (and useful, but overwhelming) references into the encyclopedia really is the best of both worlds.  It means that the information is still there in the game when you need it, but most people don't feel inclined to read encyclopedias cover to cover when they first see them; it's generally understood that those are as-needed references by nature, but helps to keep players from getting overwhelmed by that level of detail.

In terms of the Things To Do and Where To Find Stuff sections, those are still just budding and only have a little bit of information in them.  My personal largest focus tomorrow is going to be on getting those fleshed out more, and my wife is helping out a lot with making sure that all of the macro game mechanics are being properly explained by well-timed popups when they are introduced.

It's been quite a challenge to figure out the post-intro-mission tutorial-type teaching of the player, but I think what we're settling on is really good: it retains player freedom while at the same time providing guidance, which is what some longtime players of AI War (RCIX comes to mind) always seemed to want more of.

We considered doing something more linear with the missions and such at the start of the game, but ultimately discarded that idea because it makes the player wait too long to "get to the good part," while at the same time sending the wrong message about the amount of freedom in this game (aka, that you have immense amounts of freedom). 

Letting players retain that freedom, while giving them very well defined goals that would prevent them from simply wandering around aimlessly, has thus become our focus.  My wife and I have been working on building that up based on the framework that Josh has put together over the last week or so, and I think that's coming along well. 

Hopefully the bulk of that will be finished tomorrow, so that we can hit our goal of entering beta phase 3 on Tuesday.  But if not, we're only a day or two off either way.  And meanwhile, Erik and his buddy Kevin have come up with what I can conclusively say is our strongest trailer yet for any of our games.  It's really cool, and we'll be unveiling that alongside beta phase 3.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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