I once read wonderful blog post which imagines an alternate universe where instead of D&D, Gygax and Arneson made a game about people's feelings. Feelings, it said, are easy, just some variables describing emotional states. Combat is hard: all that detail, all that complexity. No one does games about combat in this alternate universe.
But let's look at D&D, and especially the dungeon-crawl computer games that evolved from it. It's fashionable within neo-old-school circles to take old RPG rules and read and interpret them almost like religious texts, attempting to recapture lost subtleties.
Short Version: If you couldn't get Airships to work before, try again using the "Launch using System Java" option.
I continue to be fond of alternate takes on Sherlock Holmes, so here's another one:
Holmes is actually a network of experts hiding behind a common pseudonym. That's why he's considered a "master of disguise" - it's all different people. "Watson" is simply the codename used for cases where two Holmes operatives need to turn up to the same place. Think Global Frequency mixed with Sherlock Holmes.
Imagine a huge engine that's just been converted to run on a different kind of fuel. It had to be taken apart and all sorts of bits had to be connected up differently. Now it's back together again, mostly - there's still some open panels with cables coming out. You turn it on, and nothing happens. You check the wiring behind the on switch and realize you didn't connect it back up yet. You do so now, and try again. Status lights begin to turn on on the machine's panels, and it starts to emit a hum, then a belch, then an almighty crash and sparks fly, the breakers trigger, and something the colour and consistency of honey starts leaking out of the bottom. You think for a moment, then take off a side panel and rummage around. Yes, this needs to be connected to that via a filter, and if this happens, it should trigger the side valve, and...
Most of the work is done, now it's all a matter of figuring out those little missed bits and then wiring them up correctly.
That's the state Airships' data loading is currently in.
Given how long this development cycle is taking, I've decided that I'm going to split dev 8 into two. The two major features I had planned were support for modding and adding monsters. The plan now is to release a dev 8 that focuses on modding, with some minor new content additions, and then start work on dev 9, which will be monsters. Finally, dev 10 will be an update to the strategic combat, rounding out the planned game features.
Steam user GERSillySausage has been positively churning out some really nice fan art for Airships: Conquer the Skies. Here are some of my favourites, displayed with his permission.
In Zurich, there's a regular gamedev get-together called Gamespace usually hosted by my friend Dragica. And the most common format is a micro-game-jam, where we pick a theme in some fashion and then spend three hours alone or in small teams putting something together. Having so little time does wonders for focusing the mind.
Early naval battles mostly revolved around ramming and boarding, and early naval cannon were mostly anti-personnel weapons. But by the 16th and 17th century, cannon became powerful enough to punch through the hulls of enemy ships. At around the same time, propulsion shifted from oars to sails, freeing up space on the side of ships to mount large gun batteries.
Now it was at least technically possible to defeat your enemies from afar - if your aim was good enough. In practice, many battles still ended up happening at close range. Depending on range and intent - to sink, to slow, to disable, to kill enemy crew in preparation for boarding - a wide range of different projectiles were called for.
And each day, they dare a little closer to your cabin.
A tiny horror game made in about five hours.
With dev 7 and its revisions complete, I am now fully engaged in working on the next major version of Airships. This time, the big addition is going to be monsters, and to make that happen I'm doing a lot of cleaning-up and restructuring.
All units, including the upcoming monsters - dragons, fleshcrackers, suspendium bees - are handled in-game as "a kind of airship" or "a kind of crew member". Obviously, buildings are just airships without lift and propulsion, and landships ones with an alternative propulsion system. I can reuse the code for handling a lot of stuff - movement, collision, shooting, targeting - for creatures as well. A fleshcracker is just a funny-looking small landship, an aerial kraken is just an airship with no crew and a special tentacle attack.
So what distinguishes the two kinds of units?
Airships v7.3 has arrived, and with it comes something I've been putting off for a while: a tutorial!
The main reason why I waited until now with a tutorial is that I wanted to wait for the gameplay to crystallize and stop changing heavily. In previous projects, I added a tutorial early on and found myself having to rewrite it multiple times as the game changed. This was an immensely motivation-sapping task I wanted to avoid.
I've also had the luxury of doing without a tutorial because a large proportion of new players have come to the game via YouTube. This meant that they'd already seen plenty of gameplay. Others simply liked the challenge of figuring things out.
But as we near the end of Airships' development - two more major interim versions before the final release - making the game more broadly accessible becomes ever more important.
At this point in the development, I need a graphical artist to complement my work on the game. While I can produce pixel art for the in-game graphics, I can't create high-quality character portraits or complex scenes. This is where you come in.
It's occurred to me that all three dungeon crawler games I currently play have something in common: positioning matters a lot.
Way back in 2012, I had a chat conversation with my friend David where we hashed out what was to become Airships: Conquer the Skies.
Airships v7.2.1 is out, and this time it's a very small update. It does three things:
That is all. More stuff on v8 soon.
Hey, v7.2 is out, and it's a big one!
Now that the weather here in Zurich is no longer boiling-hot, I've started streaming game development again. In the first stream, which you can watch below if you like, I worked on info overlays for the ship editor.
In between major releases of Airships, I like to work on things that don't require deep changes to the game's code but make the whole experience better. For version 7.2, I want to make the combat feel more visceral, which of course mainly means one thing: better explosions.
One of my recently discovered webcomics is Stand Still Stay Silent, set in a post-apocalyptic world where a zombiefying disease has wiped out nearly all of humanity - nearly all mammals - except for a remnant in the nordic countries. The disease doesn't do too well in the cold. Iceland closed its borders early enough, and isolated parts of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland survive. By the time of the main narrative, 90 years after the catastrophe, a significant proportion of people now have immunity against the disease, and efforts are underway to slowly reclaim land - a process that requires burnings everything to the ground and letting the cold disinfect things before replanting can begin.
Apocalypses are often an excuse to do away with most of the world and concentrate on some particular part of the world, some way of life that survived, mixing old and new.
So it occurred to me that another interesting way to slice the world would be by elevation instead of temperature.
A quick new version of Airships, fixing various bugs and crashes:
Airships 7.1 is out, bringing various fixes and some enhancements.
The spider symbol for your coat of arms was deemed rather weak, so I've enhanced it. Apart from getting a spider legs module, you now also get Arachnid Soldiers, a type of light infantry equipped with grappling hooks.
A common question in science fiction is what humans are like relative to other sentient life-forms. Because we only know life from one planet, Earth, we have insufficient reference points to know how we might compare.
Perhaps the most popular trope that answers this is "humans are average" - we're medium-sized, medium-smart, medium-aggressive, medium-everything. This sometimes gets extended into "humans are flexible", a kind of earthling boosterism wherein we come out on top exactly because we're more well-balanced than the aliens.
Airships v7 has been out for a few days now, and has been received very positively by old hands and new players alike.
As usual, before we move on to the next major release, there are going to be a few minor releases to correct problems and put in minor features that didn't make the cut. The first such release, v7.1, is going to concentrate on fixing bugs players have reported, which are as follows: