Airships: Conquer the Skies

David Stark / Zarkonnen
2013-09-28 13:54

In the game, ships are viewed side-on, and their modules are operated by individual crew members. During combat, players give high-level commands to a small fleet, positioning their ships, ramming and boarding others. Ships and terrain are fully destructible: they can catch fire, explode, break apart, and fall. Players can also compete against one another in Internet and LAN matches.

The ships are highly detailed, teeming with sailors moving around at their individual tasks, like an ant farm or a cut-away drawing. The player's choices in ship layout are crucial, and an important part of the game is exploring the design space of different airships and their matching tactics.

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  • Optimizing for boredom, why I stopped playing FTL, and why Airships has no precise targeting2016-05-02 17:42

    A while ago I listened to a podcast interview with one of the developers of Don't Starve. They were discussing the design of the Science Machine, the building that lets you discover new crafting recipes.

  • You should join my mailing list2016-05-01 16:17

    Want to get the occasional update on Airships' development? Want to hear about future projects?

  • The Kraken2016-04-13 16:39

    After a series of bug fix releases for dev 8, I am now making headway on dev 9 and its menagerie of monsters. In a previous post, I showed you the tentacle movement I implemented for the game. Now I want to show you how these tentacles are actually used by the Sky Kraken.

  • How to draw graphics for Airships2016-03-21 13:41

    There are two purposes to this blog post: one is to explain in detail how the lighting system works in Airships, and the other is to show you how to create graphics for the game that are in the same style as the rest.

  • Version 8.12016-03-16 17:49

    Version 8.1 hath dropped, bringing fixes, improvements, and giant sawblades to chop apart your enemies.

  • Tentacle Logic2016-03-07 17:34

    With Airships dev 8 complete, it's time to start creating monsters.

    Monsters and pirates is what dev 9 is going to be all about. What sets monsters apart from normal airships is that they can have abilities that are a little more out there, that would be hard to give to players for reasons of balance or user interface.

    One of these things is tentacles. Giant aerial kraken will descend from the skies and begin snacking on your crew as you attempt to fend them off. Now, Airships' graphics may not be the fanciest, but they do pay attention to detail. A fixed tentacle graphic swinging by would be boring: how about properly animated ones? I wanted to try, at least.

  • Version 82016-03-03 13:14

    After several months of development and two weeks of beta testing, Airships dev 8 is out. Its major new features are data-driven modding and Steam workshop integration, as well as new modules and conveniences like selection groups and auto-landscaping.

  • Dev 8 Beta 52016-02-25 17:39

    When I decided to release v8 as a beta version first, I wasn't entirely sure if that was the right call. Subsequent events showed that it was:

    • Beta 1: Crashed on launch
    • Beta 2: Crashed when opening the ships list
    • Beta 3: Crashed when using multiple mods in combat
    • Beta 4: Crashed when viewing a ship using multiple mods

    As you can see, the situations in which crashes happen are getting subtler, at least. And Beta 4 worked well enough for people to start reporting a lot of other issues, which means that Beta 5 is rather more massive an update:

  • Airships dev8 Beta2016-02-19 18:23

    After many months of development, Airships dev 8 is finally complete. Because it's been so long, I'm going to release it in two phases, as an opt-in beta now and then as a full release in a few days' time.

  • 250 Reviews2016-02-03 14:35

    Hey, we reached 250 Steam reviews! If you've been playing the game, you've probably noticed that I've been bothering everyone about leaving a Steam review for the game. There's a reason behind this, and it's not entirely just the fuzzy feels I get when I read them: I want the game to reach an "Overwhelmingly Positive" rating, for which it needs 500 reviews in total. What's so great about that rating? Well, it means more visible evidence that people like the game, which means more players, a bigger community, and more sales. More life pumping through the game and making it greater.

  • The case of the spontaneously falling airship2016-01-12 19:05

    In dev 8, game data is now loaded in from external files. As I expected, this is causing the occasional bug. In particular, some airship designs would consistently fall out of the sky. This needed to be fixed.

  • Publishing ships on Steam2015-12-21 16:11

    I am happy to report that I have now implemented the ability to publish ships and other constructions through the Steam workshop. This will become generally available in dev 8 along with the new modding system.

    I've tried making the process of publishing (the "shipyard") as simple as possible: Select a ship (or building/landship) in the file dialog and click on "Publish to Steam".

  • Modding Preview: The Imperial Cannon2015-12-06 16:05

    About a year ago I did a series of blog posts on how to mod a giant cannon into Airships by editing the source code. Now, as a preview for the modding features in dev 8, here's the same thing as a proper mod.

  • Meet Commodore Schwarzkolm2015-12-02 12:13

  • Version 7.3.22015-11-23 17:47

    Short Version: If you couldn't get Airships to work before, try again using the "Launch using System Java" option.

  • The data refit2015-11-16 17:26

    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.

  • Splitting dev 82015-11-14 16:29

    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.

  • Fan art spotlight: GERSillySausage2015-11-12 19:23

    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.

  • The many different things you can fire from a cannon2015-10-30 15:33


    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.

  • Spiders! Data-driven Spiders2015-10-21 16:00

    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?

  • Version 7.3 and Thoughts on Tutorials2015-10-14 20:53

    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.

  • Looking for a Character/Scene artist for Airships: Conquer the Skies2015-10-07 15:52

    Airships: Conquer the Skies is an indie game currently under development and in early access. It's a steampunk real-time strategy game where you build airships out of components and fight with them.

    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.

  • Two years of Airships2015-09-29 17:13
    September 29, 2013: Aggravated by problems with a nonpaying client, I start prototyping this game about building and blowing up airships. Two years later, it's still going, and it has a new trailer...
  • Talking about Airships back in 20122015-09-29 17:10

    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.

  • Version 7.2.12015-09-23 20:09

    Airships v7.2.1 is out, and this time it's a very small update. It does three things:

    • Improved performance when boarding ships via the ground.
    • Weight and service ceiling are now re-calculated correctly when editing armour.
    • Creaking sounds no longer occur constantly under some conditions.

    That is all. More stuff on v8 soon.