One of the great things about Early Access is the opportunity to interact with the development and publishing teams, as well as for the development team to provide progress updates that hone in on changes they are making based on your feedback. To coincide with the release of Early Access phase 4 (version 44.4)
, we have a progress update from Andrés Chilkowski, CEO of NGD Studios and Game Director on Master of Orion.
I now turn the keyboard over to Andrés for the remainder of this article...
As most of you know by now, Early Access is a looking glass into the development of a game. Making games is a complex process and what you witnessed with EA3 was a good example.
EA3 was us trying to reach feature complete at all costs. Because of that, some features came into it very hot and lacked the necessary polish while other features (like, ahem, Minor Civs...
) were not good enough.
Now that the game is -almost- feature complete we can finally focus on making it better. Things like a smarter and more challenging artificial intelligence, a more streamlined UI and improved pacing and rhythm thanks to a more balanced game will start to catalyze from now on.
Welcome to EA4!
Although the balance and the mechanics still need more tweaking and improvements, we have now reached a point where we can really start to focus on AI.
Our vision and objectives for the AI are the following:
- The AI should play fair and use the same information as the human player
- The AI should provide good feedback and a coherent narrative to the users through their actions and diplomatic interactions
- The AI should be challenging
- The AI should play according to their racial traits and characteristics
Our development efforts towards the AI went into these 3 categories for EA4: Global Strategy, Management and Diplomacy.
This is still a work in progress but we have improved the way the AI is placing its fleets and assessing the overall status of war.
- Improved analysis to evaluate the war effort
- Improved analysis to pursue different victory conditions
- Improved overall threat awareness
- Improved Offensive strategies
- improved Defensive strategies
- Improved specific tactics for invasion and bombing
- Improved handling of space pirates
- The AI is more efficient at deciding what structures to build and when according to the type of planet and the stage of progress of each colony
- The AI is now much better at handling its finances allowing races to shoot for a bigger empire and armadas
- Colonization rules are more aggressive if interesting planets are available
- Now the AI can Terraform their planets and use the space factory to build new ones
The game provides context and narrative, and good insight into the AI, through diplomatic interactions. Our efforts into the diplomatic AI are focused on making our characters more believable and pushing the player into making interesting decisions.
The most important change is the AI taking into account Threat Awareness for potential enemies and allies. Now it will be much easier to understand the AI's intentions as they will sweeten a deal that they really want to make and they will react in a more reasonable way if they are afraid.
Espionage was a highly anticipated feature and feedback seems to be positive in terms of the overall vision but the implementation in EA3 had several UX problems and required a great deal of micromanagement.
With that in mind, we made the following improvements to Espionage for EA4:
- Mission tree now allows to add missions to a queue
- We improved the feedback for Spy selection
- We removed the camera automatic focus upon selection to improve Target Colony selection
- Acquire Data mission now reveals enemy colonies offering more colony targets
- Decreased spawn rate for spies to improve the game’s rhythm and make the Espionage Training Facility more relevant
- New mission added: Steal Charts
- Revolt duration capped at 20 turns
- Rebalanced duration for certain missions
- Other minor UX improvements
We continue to improve balance for tactical battles according to your feedback. Some of the improvements that went into EA4 are:
- We increased the size of the map to add strategic depth and open up more chances to perform maneuvers
- We rebalanced weapons and shields to increase the survivability of ships
- We added range dissipation, shield piercing and armor penetration
- We improved overall performance to support even larger battles
In EA3 we tried a different approach for Ship Design that wasn't well-received. So, we went back to the design board and combined the best elements of the old interface and the new one. We also fixed a lot of the annoying bugs that you reported.
One of the most important improvements is that we finally were able to unify the flow of auto-upgrade with the ship design flow. This means that auto-upgrade will now happen inside the ship design screen, providing better feedback and allowing for more opportunities for you to edit your designs in case you don't like what auto-upgrade has in mind.
Removal of Minor Civilizations (temporary)
As they were implemented so far, they ended up as more of a hassle than an interesting strategic decision, requiring a great deal of attention for little reward.
We decided that Minor Civs had to be taken back to the design board as this feature is not up to the standards of quality and design that we want for the game. Once we have a new design we will open it up to you to gather your feedback.
That's all we have for now, you can see a detailed list of changes in the patch notes:
We hope that you enjoy this version. We are anxious to get your feedback and continue to work to make this a great Master of Orion game.
- Chilko & the NGD Studios team
- WG Labs