Ships are put together out of modules, and the layout of modules matters a great deal: everything on board is done by individual airsailors who need to run around, ferrying coal, ammunition, water and repair tools - and sometimes their fallen comrades.
You can command fleets of airships both against the computer and against other players across the Internet.
In addition, there is a single-player strategic mode, where you use your fleet to conquer city after city, unlocking new modules and bonuses with each of them.
The game has an authentic-ish system of heraldry where you can create your own coat of arms, and register it with the game forums as unique to you. Buying the early access release gets you all future updates up to the final release for free.
When you start upgrading the visuals of your game, some parts start sticking out like a sore thumb. In this case, I'm really unhappy with the way damaged armour looks, so I'm going to outline a way to make it look better. This is a bit involved, but there is a really cool picture at the end...
In the first post on lighting, I got as far as adding unidirectional light sources to the game. The next step was to make the light directional, so things facing a light source would be lit up more strongly. To do this, the game needed to keep track of the direction of light, and not just its intensity.
In this second instalment of the Airships modding guide, I'll give you an explanation of how mods can override existing game functionality, and walk you through creating a simple mod that adds a new weapon: a really big cannon.
Over the past few days, I've spent a lot of time going over Airships and improving it in terms of AI, speed, and bugs. The major highlight is that the strategic game should be more balanced now: AI empires make much better decisions in terms of what to build and who to invade. Also, I've eliminated inefficient code for crew shouts and firing angle calculations that were taking up a solid two thirds of CPU time - remember to profile, kids!
On top of that, there's lots of other improvements:
This week, I started working on dynamic lighting, which is one of the major planned features in the next release. The idea is that explosions, fires, etc. light up their surroundings. I also want to take into account light direction, so surfaces that are angled towards the light source are lit up more strongly. Like in real life!
The release of Airships early access 5 is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21. All that reminds is some final testing and baking the releases, and you'll get to play with the new features like ramming and boarding and sails. To bridge the gap, here's an overview of the new kinds of crew you can get, as well as two stories of ridiculous bugs I discovered in the last few days.
In thefirstthree boarding posts, I've detailed how I built up the new boarding feature, adding the concept of crew existing outside of ships, and building each part of the boarding process. There's a final thing I really wanted to add: grappling hooks! Because they're cool.
In the lasttwo installments on boarding, I covered all the phases of boarding except for how to get your crew across from your ship to the enemy's. The marines are able to leave your ship and hang on to the outside, and once on the other ship, they can enter and start fighting. What remains is the leap across.
I'm continuing work on boarding combat, which will be the major addition in the next release of Airships, according to the development plan.
Last time, I got to the point where air marines could teleport over to an enemy ship and fight the crew there. This disrupts the enemy ship's operations, with marines killing crew who would otherwise be busy firing at your ships. But marines should also be able to take over ships with enough effort. This was the next thing to implement.
I'm now getting started on airship-to-airship boarding, which is the major new feature in the next development release. With boarding, you can send air marines to enemy ships to disrupt them and even take them over.
I'm never really sure to what degree I'm "meant to" talk about the business and numbers side of making Airships. For example, I haven't released any sales figures. (They are a source of guarded optimism, but let's just say I'm not quitting my day job anytime soon.) Still, I'm going to go on a bit about Greenlight, the process through which one might get one's game into the Steam store.
Ramming is already an important part of airship battles, which tend to be quite physical. In early access version 5, one of the major goals is adding external modules - such as proper ramming equipment.
These are detailed instructions on how to set up the Airships code and libraries with NetBeans. At the end of these instructions, you will have a copy of the game running from the source code, ready to be modded.
One of the useful things about putting your game on Greenlight is that it gets put in front of a lot of new people, and you get a lot of comments. One of the definite threads in the comments for Airships has been that a lot of people want improvements to the graphics. So in this post I'm going to lay out what improvements are planned as part of version 6 (the one after the next one, which is about boarding combat).
Airships: Conquer the Skies has been up on Greenlight for a few days now. It's made good progress towards getting into those top 100 games that may get picked up for distribution, but it's by no way there yet.
Airships has now entered the Steam Greenlight process! This means that given sufficient votes, the game will be made available on the Steam online store.
I was very unsure about when to start the game's Greenlight run: there's a lot of work still to be done, and the version after next in particular is going to make the game look a lot prettier and potentially appealing. On the other hand, there's a question of momentum: after the post-dev3 slump, there are lots of new players now, the forums are active, mods are being developed. So ultimately I decided to enter it into Greenlight now.
Suspendium crystals are what keep the airships aloft. How do they work? I mean, obviously they're fictional, but it's nice to have consistent rules in your fiction. As you'll see, thinking about the rules of Suspendium leads to a whole bunch of worldbuilding as a consequence.
Since the introduction of small modules in dev2, you can make some pretty small airships. Now air leviathans are impressive, but the manoeuvrability of small ships can give you a big tactical advantage.
Let me get down to laying out my future plans for Airships. Right now, the game is still in the middle of development, and is not going to hit alpha for many months. Along the way, I'm going to add a whole lot of features, and the game's price is going to rise to $10 for the alpha, and then to $15 when we approach the final version.