My short answer for the release date is "When it's done. Sometime in 2017." I'm being cagey with the exact date because, as you may have noticed, my estimates have become worse with each major milestone. I once thought I'd wrap up the game in 2015, then in 2016, so I'm pushing the release window way back in advance now.
Why does this keep taking longer? The more stuff you already have in your game, the more effort it is to add new things, because the new things have to correctly work with everything that's already there. The effort required to add new things is exponential.
There is one more major feature cycle planned after dev 9, upgrading the strategic campaign mode and adding a multiplayer ladder. After that, there will be several months of gearing up to the release, where I intend to do nothing else than fix bugs and improve performance, balance, and GUI.
There are three major ways in which early access games fail to deliver, and I'd like to avoid all of them.
Some games are simply abandoned mid-development as the developers run out of money, or lose interest, or are eaten by alligators.
Others are rushed out of early access in a buggy unfinished state, due to money pressures, publisher arrangements, or a simple lack of interest in quality.
Finally, most insidiously, some games like being in early access far too much, and make no effort to ever leave. Exciting new features are added regularly, but old bugs are never addressed. For the developers, the game's selling fine in early access, so why rock the boat?
I want none of this for Airships. I aim to finish the game, not endlessly add semi-working features, and I aim to release it reasonably bug-free and balanced. Of course there will be updates after the 1.0 release, but they should be bug fixes and minor adjustments, not the addition of major features missing from the game at release.
I want to be clear about what will be in the game, and what not. The danger of talking to players about your game, as I love to do, is that you get enthusiastic and start mentioning all kinds of cool possibilities. These cool possibilities can get perceived as promises. So I've generally tried to be clear my language and not make promises I can't keep, but it's not a perfect process.
So here is a list of all the major features that will get added between now and version 1.0. If something is not on this list, it may not happen. Even if it would be really cool, even if I talked about it with great enthusiasm.
That being said, if I did explicitly promise you a feature not on this list, please tell me! While I keep notes, it's perfectly possible I've forgotten.
Dev 9 (soon)
- More harpoon weapons
- Fleshcracker robots
- Monster nests that attack cities
Dev 9.x (in 2016)
- Quick try-out mode for your ship designs
- Flying troop types / "mini-airships"
- Suspendium bees
- Area of effect / splash / explosion damage
Dev 10 (in 2017)
- A partial rewrite of the strategic conquest. I'm currently working on the design for this.
- A multiplayer ranking system
Of course those aren't the only things I've planned by far, and there are some things I'm not mentioning because I want them to be a surprise, but that's the backbone of features that I promise you.
For now, I'm going to get back to dev 9 and add more monsters!