Empire Version 1.2 is OUT (on PC and iOS – Android soon!)

Hey everyone!  Version 1.2 of Empire is now available on iTunes and Gamer’s Gate.  The Google Play patch should be out any day now.

Over the past month or so, I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of feedback from fans.  A lot of our fans are game designers themselves and have submitted incredibly detailed, thoughtful ideas.  I also got a chance to speak with some great game designers about Empire at the Practice: Game Design in Detail conference last month, at which I was lucky enough to be a speaker.

Over that time, I’ve been working hard on a big set of rule changes.  I’ve been looking at what the fundamental purpose of different things in the game are, questioning and re-questioning stuff from different angles.  Just from playing, I think most players would agree that the combat is much more fun and interesting than the overmap, and this is something I’m working hard to improve.  Interestingly, the solution is to both make the overmap “less of a thing” – to make it lighter and involve less busy work (particularly, hitting next-turn), and also at the same time making the overmap more interesting (each choice means more).  So I guess a way to describe it is that it will become less granular.

Most of these changes won’t be in the 1.2 patch that just went out.  1.2 is a small patch that is trying out just a few of the features from the eventual big patch.  Next month, we plan on diving into the really big 1.3 patch, which will involve some major changes to how monsters work, how buildings work, and other things.  For now, we’re cleaning stuff up a lot, and adding more context from battle to battle by having units preserve their health between battles.

Onto the patch changes!  Remember to come discuss them with us on the forums!

Unit Changes
- Warriors have 4 HP.
- Cavalry have 6 HP.
- Archers have 3 HP.
- Your units no longer heal between battles.
- There is no longer a cap on unit deaths and strife cards in a battle.

Emperors Changes
- Reduced the starting Strife for all characters by 2.
- All emperors now start with 1 warrior, 1 cavalry and 1 archer.
- The War Chief:
+1 Action Card to choose from after a battle.
Warriors have +2 Health.
- The Senator:
Keeps destroy 3 Strife Cards.
Units regain +1 Health after every battle.
- The Wizard:
Killing a unit gives him a redraw.
Unique card: Meteor.

Card Changes
- Archer Take Cover now only allows you to move your archer behind a warrior or cavalry.
- Archers Shift has become Shift and allows you to move all units of a picked type up or down 1 tile. You get redraws depending on the amount of units of that type you have.
- Savage blows is no longer unique but gives +1 damage instead of double damage.
- Bounty card is no longer unique, but gives 25 materials instead of 30.
- Resurrected units now have 2 HP instead of 1.

Monster Changes
- The base minimum number of monsters in a battle is 4 instead of 3.
- The minimum number of monsters you will meet in a battle now also scales with the turns. This rule only affects situations where you kill monsters but don’t destroy the monster nest.
- Super monsters now have +1 HP.

Polishing
- When having to select a new card, you can see how many cards of that type you already have.
- Description of Feast and Academy have some improvements.

EMPIRE News and The 1.1.1 Update!

Hey everybody!  It’s EMPIRE News time!

First thing’s first – the 1.1.1 update just went out, with some crucial balance fixes, a ton of polish, and even some bug fixes.  You can read the full patch notes at the end of this post.

Also, did we mention that EMPIRE is on Steam Greenlight?  We really need your support, so come on down and vote for us, would you?  You can also purchase EMPIRE on Gamer’s Gate right now if you want to play it on PC or Mac.  Oh, and it was just submitted to the Mac App Store!  Look out for that in the next day or so.  EMPIRE is EVERYWHERE!

We’re working hard on making EMPIRE better and better with each new patch.  It’s so exciting how many people have been writing such positive reviews on the App Store, Google Play, and various forums around the internet.  Thanks everyone for your support.

And thanks even more to the people who gave us useful constructive criticism.  I’m pretty sure I read *all* of the comments I can find regarding game balance and general gameplay thoughts, and I take them all to heart.

We have BIG PLANS for this game!  Please let us know if you have any thoughts, comments or ideas.  Also, EMPIRE is the kind of game that needs word of mouth to survive, so if you like the game, please tell your friends about it and post on social media and such.

 

Onto the 1.1.1 Patch notes!

Balance changes:
- Keep now costs 2 gems (they used to cost 50 materials).
- Academy now cost 50 materials and give 8 Victory Points (they used to cost 2 gems and gave 15 Victory Points).
- Each new feast now gives 2 more Victory Points than the previous one in that city.

Polishing:
- Scrolling of cards and emperors now is smoother and can be done with less effort. You can also just tap on a card or an emperor and it will automatically scroll there.
- In combat, the camera will no longer move when zoomed out.
- The combat zoom’s last used setting is now properly stored and used in the next battle.
- The prompt that asks the user to play the tutorial is now only asked once.

Bug fixes:
- Strife card description has been fixed.
- Tiles should always load properly (there was a rare bug that changed tiles into water or created weird looking fog).
- Units moving in place bug fixed
- Small fixes in the help panel.

Also, we updated the PC and Mac build on Gamers Gate so people can now select their resolution before they start the game

Version 1.1 Released!

We’ve submitted version 1.1 to the App Store and Google Play.  Google Play has a much faster turnaround, so if you’re an Android user, it’s already out there – go play it now!  If you’re an iOS user, you’ll probably have to wait one or two more days before you get your hands on all these delicious changes.

I don’t know about you, but reading patch notes has always been one of my favorite parts of being into a great game.  Without further ado, here are the patch notes.  Note that there’s a ton of smaller things that aren’t written down here, like polish and stuff – this is just the significant rule changes.  Enjoy!

Continue reading

Asymmetrical Heroes and More for Version 1.1

I've written before about how important it is that developers take care of their games post-release.  Wrote about it at my blog, and then re-posted the article to Gamasutra.  I feel strongly about this, and I want to be on record, very publicly, as having said it loud and clear.  And it totally applies to EMPIRE, of course.

So, the game was released on the 5th – about ten days ago, at the time of this writing, and we're already knee-deep in the first patch.  Version 1.1 will fix a ton of balance issues, a few bugs (there aren't many bug reports, though, we're proud to say), and even adds some significant new features.  Wanna hear about 'em?

Keep in mind, this is a tentative list – some of this is subject to change by the time 1.1 reaches your hands.  First, we'll start with the new features, which are probably the most exciting to hear about.

Introducing the EMPERORS!

As of version 1.1, EMPIRE will have three asymmetrical “factions” you can choose from.  Beyond having their own portrait art done by Gilles Ketting(the same dude who did our lovely card paintings) and lore, they also have their own starting decks, starting armies, and even different special global powers.  I won't give you the specific numbers for the most part, because we're still balancing / tweaking those, but this gives you a general idea of what we want for these Emperors.

SENATOR_PORTRAIT_ROUNDEDMarkus, The Senator

Markus is a much-beloved leader, both because his eloquent words have a way of inspiring unity in the tribes, and also due to his stewardship of the lands.  As Emperor, Markus is well-balanced, although not quite as natural a fighter as some leaders.

Markus starts with a pretty balanced deck, and one of each unit type.  He starts with the unique Copy card, and has a high redraw cap.  He also gets more food out of Forests, so he generally has a good growth rate.  He's kind of the all-around guy, but with a slight bias towards economy / overmap.

WIZARD_PORTRAIT_ROUNDEDJohan, the Wizard

Johan is a mysterious figure with a trail of stories so bizarre, many in the world believe him to be a myth altogether.  As Emperor, Johan wields great magical power, although often has difficulty maintaining a basic sense of order among his people.

Johan is the classic “glass cannon” approach.  He has a LOT of downsides – doesn't start with any cavalry, cavalry cost 25 more materials to produce, and a paltry 2 max redraw.  However, he also starts with several powerful spell cards (including the newly-unique Meteor card) and 2 Command, allow him to cast spells on turn 1.

WARCHIEF_PORTRAIT_ROUNDEDShirin, The War Chief

When not on the battlefield, Shirin appears calm and stoic; almost like a stone statue of herself.  However, when on the battlefield, Shirin shows a brutality and skill that terrifies all who witness it.  As Emperor, she relies heavily on her combat abilities.

Shirin is all about large armies and smart use of Action Cards.  A cool rule that Shirin has is that when she kills a monster, she gains 1 Command and 1 Redraw, but on the other hand, Spell cards are harder for her to obtain.  On the overmap, she has an increased capacity for materials, allowing her to produce more Cavalry or other unit types when she needs them.

So those are the Emperors.  Later on, we could perhaps add more of course, but for now we think that this is just enough variety to help our little solitaire strategy game have enough longevity.  I should make it clear that the Emperors are less like classical videogame asymmetry, and more like gameplay variants.  We may add different gameplay objectives (I'll get into that in a second) and other game-wide rules for the Emperors in the future if needed.  As it is, they do not compete with each other on the same scoreboard – each Emperor gets its own scoreboard.

Victory Condition!

One of the biggest requests we've been getting is for some kind of clear, achievable goal.  We've heard you, and frankly, I'm a bit angry at myself for not having thought of this simple solution before we launched.

In order to Win in Empire, gain 200 Victory Points.  If you want, you can continue past that and see how far you can get, but gaining 200 is the goal.  If you die before getting 200, you've lost.

We also might add a Hard Mode that requires 300 or more victory points, although that hasn't been ironed out completely yet.

New Resource: Gems!

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In general, another complaint people make is that the combat is significantly more fun than the overmap.  I agree with this complaint whole-heartedly.

One of the biggest problems that I kept running into through Empire's development was making everything work with just the two resources: Food, and Materials.  I generally like to start with too few resources, and move up as needed, but unfortunately it didn't quite dawn on me until after the game was out that by adding one more resource, we could dramatically improve the overmap game.

Gems can be seen through the fog of war, so you now have some kind of cue as to “where to explore”, whereas before it was slightly hard to know which direction to go.  They are required for gaining spell cards, giving “taking action cards” more of a role.  They are also required for building archers.  Archers now cost very few materials (less than warriors), and 1 Gem.  This means that your army composition will be slightly dictated by which resources you have a decent amount of.

Other Stuff!

There's so much more stuff that I can't really even get into all of it right now.  I'll just say that I keep in close contact with our best players, like Mercviper, who got a whopping 559 points within the first couple days.  Guys like him have been interacting with us on the forums and letting me know about the balance exploits they've discovered.  Part of this stage of development is a bit of a special “whack-a-mole” game where we try to knock down every overpowered strategy, without harming the ability for players to make interesting, dynamic, creative decisions.  It's hard, but fun.

We also have massive plans for version 1.2, including a big, positive change for how monsters work on the overmap.  Keep a lookout!  Thanks for reading, and please come join us on the forums!

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EMPIRE Is Complete! Release on Oct. 4!

Good news!  EMPIRE is now feature-complete!

Combat!  The best part of the game.

Combat! The best part of the game.

After many months of hard work, we’re happy to announce that we’re moving into the “gold” phase of EMPIRE’s development.  This means that no new rule changes can come into play from here until release, during which time the game will go through a rigorous QA testing run.

The game is the best it has ever been.  This past month – as I wrote about in the last blog post – has been pretty dense in the amount of rapid improvements to the gameplay.  We have to thank our testers – Bucky, Vivafringe, Endevero, Nachtfischer, Senator, Donderper, and a few others.  They have been essential in getting the game to where it is now.

I also want to stress that we have a ton of awesome ideas / features planned for post-release.  Launch day is only the beginning!  Oh, and speaking of launch day…

 

Release Date!

We have to go through QA, and then submit to Apple, but we estimate that the game should be in your hands by October 4th!  Pretty exciting.

Right now, we just need to get the word out about our game.  We know tons of people would want to try a super-modern, original 4X-strategy/deckbuilder game, if they just know it exists!

Email your favorite blogs about us!  Tweet about us!  Post on forums!  Anything you, our fans, can do to help get the word out would make a huge difference.

Anyway, thanks for staying tuned to our blog.  More updates to come soon!  Also, here’s another screenshot!

The Overmap!  Spread your Empire!

The Overmap! Spread your Empire!

EMPIRE Beta Challenges – The Fun Part!

New to EMPIRE?  Check out this post for a quick introduction to the game!

EMPIRE's Beta has been a strong success so far, with very active participation from a lot of great beta testers.  Many of them were also fantastic testers largely responsible for getting AURO into the balanced, tight and interesting little gem that it is.  Good testers are pretty much *as* important as a good designer, and we've definitely got them for EMPIRE.

So let me fill you in a bit on what we've been working on.  This is a pretty highly detailed game design journal for the game, so I hope that it's interesting, and please let me know if you have any thoughts.

The Game Designer's Favorite Phase

Right now, we're still in the phase where we're making rather significant changes rapidly, trying new ideas, re-arranging stuff, and even removing/adding subsystems where needed.  For a game designer, it's quite scary and stressful, particularly for one like me who is always treading new ground.  However, it's also the most fun and interesting work a game designer gets to do.

At the start of a game's development, it's definitely fun to “imagine” all these ideas for how the game will work.  As a kid, this was always my favorite thing to do, because the game in my head was always way more exciting than reality.  However, as you get to be a more experienced game designer, you start to realize that fact a bit more, and that really drains the fun out of the initial “thinkin' stuff up” phase.  So that phase is still fun for me, but it's a bit diminished by the feeling that I know 70-80% of what I think sounds good now will have huge problems in reality. Continue reading

The EMPIRE Beta Has Begun!

Hi everybody!  This is just a short post to let you all know that the EMPIRE Beta has just begun!  About 30 lucky people should have gotten emails from Testflight with little installer links.

This is an early build, so there are lots of bugs and missing implementations.  Most of these we're already very aware of, so what we're really interested in at this point is:  what do you think of the game?  How is balance?  Is combat interesting and engaging?  Is anything annoying?  How is the game length?  Etc!  Give us all of your thoughts.

We'll have new builds out soon.  Remember to report your thoughts over at the EMPIRE boards.

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Empire Beta starts August 12th!

This is just a short blog post to let everyone know that development is going smoothly, and that we're starting the beta next week.  As always, you can sign up on the Empire Forums if you want to take part.

For me, as the lead designer, I'm looking really forward to the beta, because this is where probably 50% of the work really is.  It's one thing to concoct some gameplay system in a vacuum, but once you start getting feedback, the way that you process that is I think maybe even more important than the initial conjuring.

Quick Update!

Right now, I'm really happy with how the game is going.  For the first time, it has reached the point where it's actually complete enough that it's fun to play.  We've made some massive improvements, not just with adding cool stuff, but more importantly with removing some stuff that we initially thought was cool, but in hindsight were simply unnecessary.

One huge thing we've dropped, at least for now, is the AI civilizations.  In looking at EMPIRE as a primarily single-player experience (which it is, at least for the time being), we realized that the AI civilizations were both noisy and unnecessary.  Firstly, I'm generally skeptical of AI-anything – when you add an AI to a single player experience, that automatically means that players don't have to get terribly good at the game; instead, they just have to exploit the weaknesses of the AI.  So it's a bit like laying a crappy puzzle on top of your game mechanisms, and if the player solves that, then the entire game is diminished.  A fringey, but illustrative example would be doing something like attacking enemy workers in an RTS very early on with your workers, and forcing them to follow you around, wasting time that they could be capturing important minerals.

The monsters are way stronger, design wise, in that they are tied inherently to the game mechanisms of draining the resources from the land.  As more land becomes drained, more monsters appear.  Monsters also suck resources from nearby tiles, but killing them heals a bit of land.  It's all quite tied together and nice, and I think the system makes way more sense now.

When we eventually get to doing multiplayer, that will be a separate variant with its own rules, and we may offer an AI that can sit in for players in that case – but again, that will be a slightly different game.

Despite the fact that the game is making huge improvements all the time, I know there are still huge balance issues, clarity issues (especially for new players, I'm sure) and other stuff.  So I'm psyched to hear what people think of it.

If you're signed up, I'll probably see you on the forums!

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