This is the next release, due in July. I have 12 to-do items left in my plan, then I need to do some testing, and then the release will happen.
The biggest change in dev4 is under the hood: it unifies the ship editor, combat setup, defence layout and combat screens, allowing for seamless transitions. For example, you can look at your city's defences and seamlessly switch to refitting a ship. This also means that zoom and pan will work, and work the same, across the board.
The major new feature is deformable ground for ships to plow into and floating rocks to act as obstacles. This will matter especially once boarding combat and landships are in.
Beyond this, this version will introduce a simple espionage mechanic to allow you to see enemy fleets in the campaign mode, and more weapons: A short-range flamethrower and a long-range Suspendium cannon. Credit to the forums where these were proposed by Chosenlama.
Boarding combat, finally! You can add barracks modules containing air marines that you can send to disrupt or take over enemy ships. This was originally planned for dev4, but got sufficiently delayed that I'm splitting it out into its own update.
Apart from the boarding mechanic, this version will introduce externally attached modules: ramming prows, suspendium dust chambers, as well as turreted weapons that have a wider field of fire and bombs for taking out buildings.
Next up, the major focus will be a new graphics engine: Right now, there's a lot of ugly display artefacts like gaps between tiles. The new graphics system will fix this and hopefully also add dynamic lighting and improved performance. More on that in a future detailed dev blog entry, of course.
Along with the new graphics, I will also polish up the UI components. Mechanics-wise, dev6 will introduce weather effects. Rain that reduces fire, wind that needs your ships to hold position, lightning, sunrises and sunsets that make it harder to aim in one direction.
Around this point, the game's price will rise to $10.
Dev7 will finally introduce landships with wheels, tracks and legs. Landships are cheaper but less flexible than airships, and have to follow along specific routes in strategic mode.
This release will also add diesel engines as a more powerful if expensive alternative to coal. Diesel fuel can be moved around by pipes instead of needing crew with buckets. But it also burns really, really well...
The focus for dev8 will be a major upgrade to the campaign mode. You will start with a single ship where you can learn the basics of the game, upgrading it as you go along, and eventually conquering your first city, before ending up in the late-game conquest that currently comprises the strategic mode.
Dragons! Wild dragons as hazards, tame dragons as allies.
Also potentially planned are ship commanders who give bonuses to individual ships, and a global multiplayer ranking ladder.
At this point, all the major features will be in, and the price will rise to $15.
dev10 and beyond
Finishing the game is a matter of fixing bugs and polishing the experience. Any number of releases might happen between dev9 and release 1.0, depending on how long it takes for the game to be truly done.
In a sense, this is going to be anticlimactic: version 1.0 is simply the version that's good enough to be called "done". There will be a party, though.
version 1.1 and beyond
There will be ongoing bug and balance fixes for a while.
So that's the plan! As you can see, I have lots of things still planned, and it's going to take me a while to get there. This is also very much subject to change: I may think up additional features, decide to prioritise something, or even end up having to drop something that just doesn't work properly. If there's something you'd very much like to see in the game that's not mentioned here, I urge you to go to the forums and post your suggestion!
Finally, unrelatedly, here's an excellent new preview video:
And as always, you can get the early access version right now: