“Phase 2” status update

As promised some (long) time ago (but better late than never) here is a new status update on the progress for “Phase 2” of Projekt “W”. Although my spare time is getting more and more limited due to some real important real life things that I have to take care of I still somehow manage to make progress on what now seems like my personal swansong, and actually a lot of things happened since my last status update, so this one is getting a bit longer this time.

Moving pictures
Here is a new short video of (most) of the features that I’ll talk about in this rather big news update. If you don’t like reading text or want to see the current build in motion this video should give you a glimpse at my recent progress. (Note : As usual, the video is available in HD, sadly still only 30fps for yT)

New units
First up are five new units that will be present in “Phase 2”. They’re all done and already playable in my current build, though i’m pretty sure that I’ll still have to do some balancing for them, but that’s something I’ll address in a later beta and playtesting build. Adding new units isn’t the easiest thing to do. First you have to think of what units you want to add, then you need to justify their presence (adding units that nobody will ever construct or use are pretty much a waste of time), then you need to design them, model them, texture (skin) them, describe them, put them in the game (which is pretty easy due to WeltEdit), (for some of them : add technology to unlock them), and balance them. So in my documents there are actually more than those five units but all the others that didn’t make it into the game (some may make it though) would have been pretty useless. So these five new units all make sense in some way and I hope that players use them frequently. And instead of just putting some images of them here I’ll also tell you why I actually put that unit into the game and what purpose it serves :

(From left to right)Let’s start with the Hovertank. It’s a direct upgrade to the standard main battle tank, and it’s something that has been really necessary. The MBT is usually the most constructed and used unit in the game and the new hovertank that can be researched will serve as a replacement for it later on in the game, removing some dullness within army management itself.
The second one is the Anti-Aircraft Tank, which should have been in the game from the very start (dunno why I left it out then). Up until now air units were far too strong, and this new tank will make battles much more interesting, as you now really need to balance your division in order to be effective. In “Phase 1” you could just spam air units (and add some cheap ground ones for taking over the regions) and conquer region after region. This tank will make sure that this won’t work anymore.
Next up is the Multiple launch rocket system. It’s an upgrade (research) to the mobile artillery, so very similar to the hovertank, this unit has been added to take out dullness out of army management by having you replace weaker units with upgraded ones later on in the game.
And now on to the two new air units. Both of them are upgrades to existing units. The first one is the Blendedwingfighter, bringing in some futuristic touch as an upgrade to the jetfighter. The second on is a Stealth bomber and is an upgrade for the common bomber.


UI evolution

If you follow the development of “Phase 2” you may know that the user interface went through several different iterations since I started work on it some time ago. And as the user interface is something very important to the game I’ve been spending hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of hours reworking and refining it and as of now I’m (hopefully) at a point where I think it’s almost perfect, not only visually but also when it comes down to usability. Sure, I could have just used the UI from “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” may had been finished by now, but then it wouldn’t be nearly as playable as it is now, and everytime I fire up the release of “Phase 1” (yes, I always keep severeal old versions on my disk to compare my progress) and play around I notice how much better and how much smoother this new UI is, making for a much more enjoyable gameplay experience. Take for example the “army management” window. In “Phase 1” it was very hard to find out where to click for adding units or a general to a divison, and even important actions like assigning the division to a region where somehow hard to spot. This has totally changed with the latest UI and alle elements can be easily spotted, distinguished and reached. It feels a lot more “mature” and is far easier on the navigation than the old cumbersome UI. And as a little “document of time” I decided to compare the evolution of the user interface over the years with a few screenshots below :

Army management Research


UI refinements

Since the current build is now finally able to get through a whole game without crashing, something that gave me severe headaches at times, when for example fixing AI bugs that crashed the game du to changes made for “Phase 2” (or pretty simple things, e.g. new road tiles on the battlefield that wrongly were set to block units, making AI path finding quit all the time), I saw that the general UI needed some (small) refinements that would have a positive effect on gameplay. One of the fist things I did was to add differenlty colored borders to regions that are either selected or neighbours of the selected regions as well as displaying the name of the selected regions on it’s flag, and also redid the display for the number of finished buildings within a region. Very minor stuff, but every small bit that adds up to an overall better gaming experience is worth putting in. The next thing I added was “region highlighting”. So if you now e.g. select a division in the army managment window that is assigned to a region, that region will be highlighted and animated on the globe itself, so you can quickly see where that division is assigned to. And just recently I also added to possibility to change some visibility values for the globe display, including borders and colored region overlays. This setting is saved for each player, so you can set it to your likings, allowing you to see more of the globe itself or more of the political situation :

Persistent research
Researching new technologies is a very important part of Projekt “W”, and although the research tree will be expanded for “Phase 2” (I just recenlty added seven new technologies and more are to come) it’s still possible that at one point later in the game everything will be researched. Up until now that meant research suddenly lost all it’s importance and with that all research buildings and researchers, something I had to fix for “Phase 2”. And so I added persistant research to game. Once you have researched all regular technologies new persistent technologies will be unlocked and as long as they’re active they have different effects on the game, depending on your research factors. For example you can activate persistent environmental research and as a long as it’s active the pollution increase within regions will be lowered as well as pollution cleaning effects will be raised. There will be several such technologies covering different aspects of the game that’ll make research important, even after researching all common technologies. Something pretty simple, that’ll add a lot to the gameplay.

So much on the progress of “Phase 2”. Note that there I’ve been changing and adding a lot of small things, mainly behind the curtains that you may never see when playing the game, that had to be changed. For example a lot of the values for balancing (pollution increase, cost factors, population growth, research factors, etc.) are now easily adjustable through a separate file, making balancing much easier for me. So as of now pollution won’t be that hard to cope with as it was in “Phase 1” and research factors are now also calculated a bit different (making buildings more important than in “Phase 1”). Yes, it’s still a long way to go for a final release (especially in terms of the AI, which is still doing the same things it did in “Phase 1”) but it’s coming along!

“Phase 2” status update