Reactions and interim report

Airships: Conquer the Skies
8 Oct 2013, 4:25 p.m.
I've been working on Airships for a little over a week now, and it's been a lot of fun, and has definitely worked to distract me from my still unresolved stressful financial situation. Reactions to the game have been pretty positive too.

Chris Priestman on Indie Statik wrote "I’m on board with the concept [...]. Oh, I’m SO on board.", random people on Imgur like it, and so did the people I showed it to at gameZfestival.

I've been doing some debugging on the job assignment system, which now works much better: a crewman will, for example, fetch some coal for a suspendium chamber, and then head back to the coal store to stand ready for when the next bucket of coal is needed. It's pretty important to me that the jobs system is intelligent and robust. It has to be robust because once you enter combat, and things catch fire, and your crew start dying, there will be more jobs to do than crew, and new jobs will keep on popping up. It won't be possible for the system to do a perfect job, but it should try hard enough so the player doesn't end with a feeling of "if only I could control the crew directly, I would be winning rather than losing".

Still, this kind of AI stuff is a rabbit hole one could spend an arbitrary amount of time on, so it's more important that the behaviour is and feels "good enough" than that it's perfect.

So what's next? As I wrote before, the time has come to move the ship editor into its own module to make room for a combat mode. I'm very much looking forward to having two airships hovering opposite one another, trading blows for the first time. I guess that around then all the numbers which I made up on the spot will be put to the test. Maybe the airships will tear each other apart so quickly it's barely a fight? Or maybe they can repair so effectively it becomes a game of who runs out of ammo?

What's going to take a long time when making this into a real game is getting the balancing right, and interesting. There must be no dominant strategy in airship building, no perfect airship that is better than all others. Sure, what airships you can build will be modified by your resources and technology in the final game, but still, it'd be nice if players didn't just end up using the same few builds for everything.

Nor do I want to go the timid route of making everything perfectly balanced and anodyne, with stats like "this module increases hull strength by 3%". Airships should be weird and flavorful, and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

So what's the long-term plan? Right now, I'm very happy tinkering on this and updating you. I think it may shape up to be a really good game, though of course there's a big gap between a cool concept and a working game. There's also other projects, mainly SE:SS, which I'd like to finish and release before taking on anything major. But after that - there could be a lot of airsailors in my future.