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Killer Bee Software
General Development Status - 2007

Update: December 22nd, 2007 - Still Can't Say Who, But...

Next Update by: January 26th, 2008

Well, I still can't tell you exactly what's going on, but I will give you some really good and clear hints, which will also explain why I shouldn't  tell you who, I think.

In December, 2003, I posted the information that I had acquired Empire Deluxe. Before that, I think everyone can agree it was dying. The past four years have been quite busy and interesting, and I have never regretted doing this. My goal is and always has been to keep Empire Deluxe alive, and to give it a path for evolution.

As most should know, I am a small operation. An army of about one, so to speak, with artistic help from Wydraz and such (don't want to take anything away from how much help and support he has given me in all of these games...he has been fantastic!). This has had many advantages. One of which has been I get to know the customers, and I can quickly react to issues that people find if they are in a bind. I have really enjoyed that part.

I also have added all sorts of whacky stuff to the game, some of which has been used a great deal (like AI scripting and Unit DB modification) and some that has not (like new DLL interfaces). I am a very pleased with what I have done with the resources and time that I have had to do it with. These things could be done because I was the boss, and only I was working on it. In building EDIE and EDEE, I tried my best to really review what people were posting about as far as requests go. I think this has proven a big success.

But there is a greater potential for the Empire Series that has not been met yet due to the limitations my singleton outfit has. In order to do something greater, something different needs to be done. I think I have finally found it. I do not want to steal their thunder, which is why I cannot tell you who and where…yet.

What I will say that (hopefully) by next Christmas, there will be a new version of Empire Deluxe produced for the PC and for a popular handheld console platform. This version will be developed and produced independent of me, though I will participate at some level, most likely not making development decisions. This version will be available online and in stores where you would expect to find it. How close the unit set, rules, play, etc. will be to the current versions I cannot tell you. It will come from a different perspective. This could be a good one or it could be bad. It will be up to them. We will see what they do. I have not made this decision lightly. I believe they are very interested in doing the best they can.

I will also say that the Intellectual Property that is ED has not (and will not in the foreseeable future) leave my possession. This means that EDIE and EDEE are still very much alive, and that those and future versions influenced by me will still appear, as well as other parties down the line may get a crack at their version. I felt it was a good opportunity to give someone else a chance with their own version... another  branch off the tree. I can only see this as being good for the Empire gaming community.

So there is the announcement without naming names. I am basically waiting for someone else to put out a press release, and at that time I will put out one of my own. We as a community can track their progress together, and it will be interesting to see what comes from it.

You want to talk about it, send me mail or chat in the forums.

Enjoy your holidays, and play a little Empire Deluxe when you get the chance.

 


Update: November 17th, 2007 - Can't Say Much Yet

Next Update by: December 22nd, 2007

I have been purposely holding this status report back in hopes that I can announce something pretty substantial in the Empire Deluxe world. That announcement is not ready yet, though it looks like it is going to happen. So when it does occur I will make my comments about it. Let's just say it is going to be exciting.

There should be a patch for EDEE very soon. It appears in the effort to finish building the translation capabilities of the game, some of the right click menus were broken and could cause a crash. This has been fixed and should be out in very sort order. I am not too surprised at this, as the change here was pretty significant, and the path to causing the crash was fairly obscure. It is always frustrating when such things happen though.

Galacticards II has made very little forward motion this month, mostly due to the event behind the announcement I mentioned. I should be able to continue it at this point, and I hope for it to be in a good, fully playable alpha form by the year's end.

So because I cannot yet disclose what I have been doing with this month, this status report is going to be fairly short. When the announcement does come, I will post some information on it. Hopefully, that will occur before the next report is due. ;>
 


Update: October 5th, 2007 (Can You Say Late?)  - Objectives

Next Update by: November 16th, 2007

Ah, another late status report. It was foolish of me to put the report due date on the last week of my contract, as I thought it would be slow. But one of the team member's had an addition to his family three weeks early, and suddenly it was very busy for me. But now it is over and I am finally surfacing from it.

I have really enjoyed working Killer bee Software, and have met a lot of interesting people due to it. I had originally hoped it would sustain me from an income perspective, but it does not. I do not mind this, but it does cause me to look for additional work, and as those that have followed my reports know, I have adjusted my development cycle for this. I am sure I will find some more work shortly (I have something in the works), but in the interim I will be able to spend more time on KBS a little more, and I am looking forward to it.

There are three objectives that I can list in no particular order during this off period:

One: continue Galacticards Work
Two: Explore new EDEE AI Ideas
Three: Improve the EDEE Interface


I want to continue to work on Galacticards. It certainly is not as far as I had hoped, but it is doing pretty good. Ship to ship combat has been added, and I am in the middle of working on Planetary Bombardment combat and Planetary Invasion combat. Being different from the first Galacticards, you will no longer randomly attack someone. There is now a physical map that you must navigate your forces on and select where you wish to attack. As in the original Galacticards, you first must fight the ships within he system. If you successfully do this, you have the choice to apply your warships to bombarding a planet. Then you are able to land your invasion force on planet within the system.

After I have those combat pieces in place, the game will really start to come together. The next biggest challenge for Galcticards development is to add the scientific research section. This is again different from the way it was done in the first Galacticards, where research was used as card storage. Now, you will have research centers that will gain research "revenue" on a per-turn basis. Playing for a research card will allow even more points (or bad events to lose). Points can be used for helping reduce the randomness in card selection, as well as used to improve the technical levels of various buildings and ships in the game.

There is some momentum from an independent group of fans working on the EDEE AI over at Salient Games. If you are interested in participating you should check it out. I believe I have learned my lesson in that I shouldn't be a "purist" and forbid cheating AI's to appear. Some games have cheating AI's that do a good job of appearing more human like instead of just "knowing the answer". So I am probably going to add a way for an AI player to cheat by means of getting information that it would otherwise not have in the game. I am not certain if I should allow it to do things such as speed up units not seen or speed up production times. Again, the goal is to simulate a more Human-like play, not to just make a godlike AI, for you can do that now with Handicap adjustments. I would probably also write another AI DLL that would take advantage of this new found information. This would be a different AI module from the ones that already exist.


I also want to address the EDEE interface. There are some commands that I feel need to experience another iteration to become easier. Some steps to automate certain activities easier would be useful as well. This would facilitate larger games. Some of this may trickle into EDIE as well.

For both the interface and the new AI concept, I am very open to comments from folks out there. If you have an idea you believe would help, please do not hesitate to send me a mail or post in the forum.

So it should be a busy month in these three areas. Next month I will try be best to timely report on how these items are doing.

 


Update: August 26th, 2007 (Gee - A Late One)  - Late and Long in August

Next Update by: September 24th, 2007

I have been meaning to do this status report for quite a bit. Have been doing a lot of thinking, and would like to share some of those thoughts here.

First, for work away from Killer Bee Software. The contract for which I have been under for the past 18 months is quickly coming to a close. This is a good thing as I am looking forward to moving on from it. However, I had originally planned to go back to full time KBS work, but another opportunity is knocking and I just might take that. I have been evaluating what if scenarios if such an opportunity arises. As much as I would like it to, KBS does not pay all of the bills in my home (or for my custom jumbo jet to keep up with the Googles'). The contract work has been very nice because it has given me the flexibility to earn enough money, and support the games, and work on a new one.

If I take the new opportunity, I have decided to work on Galacticards II in the slow burn fashion as I have. So I cannot at this moment make a projection as to when it would be available. It is possible there may be down time between contracts, and if that is so, I will use it to move it along as far as I can. I had originally thought I would wrap it up quickly after the contract ends, but if there is no time or not enough time between contracts, that cannot happen. I will mention the progress of "G2" later in this report, but it is definitely moving along, and will continue to either way. But the time of release may be delayed.

18 months ago, I had figured that with EDIE reaching 4 years and EDEE reaching 3, a new version may be necessary. With EDEE, I do not believe that is the case. I do feel that there are some improvements that can be made to EDEE, such as

Interface improvements - making certain command types easier to put together
Reports - presenting information in a different way
Automation - working on ways to make large games more playable.
AI improvements - possibly a different or specialized AI (specialized as in "only works well in random games with explore on").

I feel many of these would be very worthwhile, and would be presented as patches, freely available to those that own the game.

For EDIE I am not sure. I really want to preserve the game rules in this version, and find some things that I see as annoying, or "dated", but am unsure at this point on what scale and how much effort, if any, should be put into improving this. Time may be better pent focusing on improvements for EDEE.

Hopefully, I will also begin some different marketing strategies that will continue to bring in those that remember the games, as well as those new to the game. Of course, the best marketing is your word of mouth praise, as I have always said,

So that is sort f where my thinking has come out. I will continue, of course, to actively support the games as I have been doing in the past. But I do feel EDEE could use some of the improvements I mentioned above. If you have suggestions, I would like to hear them. You send me a mail or post something in the forum.

On the subject of Galacticards II, I now have a playable game where one can discover new systems on a map, explore the available planets in the system. Colonize those planets, and continue to expand. You can build certain facilities on planets. The next big step is to add some of the combat aspects to the game, with ship combat, planetary bombardment, and planetary invasion. Working on the game has been a lot of fun. My graphics are certainly ugly though. As I have mentioned before, I am going to move the game a long way before adding the graphics, possibly putting it in beta before that time. Until then, most of the images are in my hand.

On the EDEE front, the patch has been in the oven and is just about ready to come out. It should be real soon, possibly this week. There is also a lot of activity going on over at Salient, as we now have a group of people that are actively discussing and looking over the current AI. Some of this is for the WWII mod, and other parts are just for the AI in general. If you want to participate in the community effort, head on over there.

The ladder is over there now as well, and I would encourage people to register with it and score their games to give it momentum again. The ladder also includes a PGIE section as well. Salient Games has really become a great fan site, and the stuff starting to happen over there is exciting.

PGIE just had another birthday, making it four years old. As the Alpo commercial would say, 4 years for a computer game is like "60 years to you and me". But PGIE, just like EDIE and EDEE, is still very healthy and has a great community to go with it, and new players grabbing the game all the time. These games are very unique in that they out live almost any other computer game…the sign of truly great game play. Of course, PGIE is really almost 15 years old, and Empire…cough…nearing 30 years…it soon will be beginning its "fourth decade". The thought of that is simply staggering.

So as you can see, my plans have been in flux somewhat. I am sure there will be more changes in the future. Again, if you ever have any comments or want to talk about 'stuff', drop me an email or visit the forum.
 


Update: July 12th, 2007 (Another Late One)  - Slow Moving Summer

Next Update by: August 13th, 2007

There won't be much to say, as things have been a little off this month. I have not been able to get as far as I had planned to in regards to the latest EDEE patch. So it is still a ways out. It is really just a question of time, which always seems to be in short supply. I know there are a few things that some of the modders are waiting on, and there is a bug with base patrol I need to clear up.

Speaking of modders, there is a great deal of activity stating to happen with the AI scripts. In the forum, you will see that there are several people discussing the current AI script, and they are starting to see the limitations of it. There is fresh talk of working no the AI DLL code. If anyone is interested in getting involved with that, they should go poking around the salient games website. And while you are there you should look over some of the mods.

Salient also now is housing the ladder, and I have seen several games posted on it. Though it is still in beta, it seems to be going very well.

The yahoo group has been really growing as of late. And just recently some more maps were posted there. A lot of people playing Empire these days it seems.

Though I am tardy in my preparation for the next EDEE patch, I am enjoying the work on Galacticards when I get a chance. The game now allows you to Discover new worlds and I have doe some work on the System and Planet screens. I also have installed the pathing element. In the first Galacticards I did not need pathing, but since a star chart (infinite!) has been added, players can give ships and fleets movement orders.

I am taking a different approach to building this game, in that I have not started to concern myself with the artwork yet, and hope to have most of the game in some working order before I do. I partially did this because I was unsure as to when it would be finished, since I am still working on fulfilling my contract. But that time is almost done, and I should have more time soon to accelerate development.

So I am going to try to get farther down the road with the EDEE patch. There are enough issues collected now that one should be coming out soon, hopefully a couple of months soon at most. Also, I am going to continue shaping the next version of Galacticards. I am getting excited about it.

And sorry for the late report. As I have always said, I keep these status reports going to let everyone know there is still a heart beat going.  If you are looking for me and want to chat. Drop a line in the forum or send me mail.
 


 

Update: May 29th, 2007 (Late Again!)  - Busy Month

Next Update by: July 9th, 2007 (we'll see)

Ok, so this is the super week-and-a-day late status report. Been extremely busy, both with my contract work and with my game work. Regarding the contract work, I only have four more months to go on the contract. Still considering what to do in the future. But for now, there is the present.

The beginning of this month brought me the sad news of Bob Rakosky. I really did not know Bob very well from a personal standpoint, but I had met him face to face and had dealt with him several times and I sorted through the source code for both Empire Deluxe and Perfect General. When I did meet him with Mark Baldwin in Denver a couple of years ago, he had paid me a great techno-geek compliment, say "I am surprised you were able to do anything with that awful code". But the fact of the matter was, looking through the all the code, he was extremely skilled as a programmer. The code made a lot of sense and it carried over very well. It was obvious he was very skilled in several languages (there were some bits of PG in assembly), and it was obvious he had written it with multiple platforms in mind.

Being in contact with Baldwin and others that had known him, it is obvious to me that he had touched the life of many people, and their loss of a friend was great. Such an event of his passing is a sad occasion, but I hope they can see, as well as fans of the games, how he has touched them in subtle and obvious positive ways.
Other things in the Killer Bee realm are warming up. I do believe the ladder is entering open beta. Again, this is at Salient Games and I would encourage you to help out, simply by using it and challenging a friend to play.

The World War II mod is also openly available, and it is amazing the amount of thought that has been put into that mod. Some very interesting stuff….Also, I do believe the "UltraDB" has recently had an upgrade.

Speaking of upgrades, I am starting to work towards a patch release for EDEE. I am sure it will not happen until at least July. But it looks like when it is done, there will be a 2000 or so line file that you can drop in the data directory that can contain translations for all of the strings in the game to another language. This was work I had done when originally developing EDEE, but had to scrub it due to time constraints. But there seems to be a possible demand for it, as Salient is opening up an Italian page for EDEE and the game is gaining more European interest.

I have had an interesting exchange with an individual that was getting a report that The Perfect General installation file tried to install spyware on their machine, by the name of "Rapid Blaster". I occasionally get mail stating that a virus program has detected something called "I Am Big Brother". First, let me state for the record that there is absolutely, positively NO spyware contained within the installation files, or on the CDROM that is sent to you if you order it from BMT. Some virus checkers recognize the file names of the game and associate them with those spyware programs. One program called Stopzilla is a huge culprit of this.

Galacticards II is coming along nicely as well. I now have the game at a point where you can move your ships around discover new systems. This is going to be a fun game and I really am enjoying working on it. As the summer progresses it will develop itself more. If you are going to be interested in participating in a beta test, keep an eye out for when I start asking for applications.

KBS had suffered an outage last week of about a day. What had happened was the site was accidentally improperly configured DNS-wise while some maintenance was being performed, and that sent you spirally into an unknown space if you came to the site. IT also gobbled up my mail for a day. If you have not heard from me and you wrote me last week, its best you send it again.

And that reminds me, at least once a month, and sometimes more, I get an email from somebody with a question or needing help, and I would love to respond, and I do, but after a day or two the email bounces back. Then a day or so later I get another mail from the same person asking if I got the first email, or assuming I don't answer my mail. I suspect I am sitting in a spam box usually when this happens. Please understand that I always try to answer my mail in a prompt fashion.

So it has been a very busy month or so here, and this summer will be busy as well, with an EDEE patch, and with Galacticards II becoming less vaporware and more reality. I do want to say I really appreciate the efforts of individuals like breaker, thoba, WWI_weasel and Steven Woodcock as well as others for helping make the game more than it otherwise would be, with their mods and support for the community. I encourage everyone to get involved, doing whatever it is you enjoy doing with the game - be it making maps, building new databases, or challenging opponents in play on the ladder. And please, if you have the time and something comes to mind, remember that your word of mouth praise is what keeps a game alive and moving.

 


Update: April 2nd, 2007 (Late)  - More On Galacticards II

Next Update by: May 21st, 2007

Arg, so a week late...I always look to the end of the month for the report, and wouldn't you know the week ends on a Saturday for this month. Not entirely my fault though as I got a server upgrade for my website as well, so had to delay my updating a little - but got caught up in the week and well…anyway, as you can see I am alive and well at Killer Bee software, and there is a lot going on.

Notably, the WWII mod is now looking quite nice. It appears the "WWII_weasel" has managed to build a team and has people working on maps and such. I have seen his AI scripts and they are quite involved. If you have tried out this mod you need to send him some props. If not, check out www.salientgames.com for the latest info on it. I like this "Operation Overlord" map made by "thoba"




I also wrote a little one off program to switch the databases of maps, since there is a a dependency of maps to databases. In the tool I also enabled the ability to add rows an columns to an existing map, which I know some folks wanted. This map tool is on my extras page.

Salient games is also where breaker is preparing the new Empire Deluxe Ladder site. I saw a news blurb there last week that said he was about to go into a beta with it, which I would assume means people will be able to play with it. So keep an eye on that.
Galacticards II is coming along nicely. I did say I was going to talk about this a bit in the previous status report. The original Galacticards is a fun game and several people like it, but it is designed and laid out more as a card game than a board game, and there are certain elements that are quite abstract, that I think folks would like to see as a little more concrete. After talking with several Galacticards players, I came up with a new design and have been working on implementing it. Since I am not full time at the moment, the work is slower than usual… The objective is to have it finished by the time my "real world" contract is up, so that my full time attention is work on the next Empire and Perfect General versions. All this should be at the end of summer.

Galacticards II is going to be more board game like, though "the cards" are still going to play a big role. The cards will be used for certain aspects of exploration, as combat multipliers, even for negotiating with alien civilizations. But you will have more control over your fleets and armies than in the previous game, and how you explore, how you build stuff and gain mineral revenue. Players will be able to move their fleets to the systems they wish to explore and conquer, and there is an element of exploration to the star map itself. A star map editor will also be available. The Universe will be infinite in size. It will have play by mail capability. I think it is going to be a very interesting game, and hopefully will keep the quick, simple play from Galacticards.

So very busy as always. And as I previously mentioned, a great deal of activity over at Salient Games. Definitely check it out.


 

Update: February 19th, 2007  - On The Roads To Galacticards II

Next Update by: March 26th, 2007

Been a fairly quiet month here. My 'other job' contract has been I have been busy this month with the new year, but I have also been doing typical killer bee support and working on Galacticards II.

The last patches for Empire did very well, and only a few minor issues have been uncovered since then. One is an error in the AI regarding KOTH games. Send me a mail if you need an rebuilt AI for that. The second is the patrol around base command seems to have had a bug introduced in it, and can cause a crash.

Other typical Killer Bee support consists mostly of looking over possible bug reports and helping people that have melted hard drives recover their game. The hard drive melting rate amazes me, and scares into making backups frequently. I always try my best to help people out in this situation.

Galacticards II is coming along nicely, and the Torque engine is proving very helpful. It has quite a ways to go, but it seems a lot more mature than when I was using it for the original Galacticards. The game itself is different from the original, in that players have more control over who/when they attack, how they gather resources, and perform other tasks such as production and construction. I think Empire oriented fans will enjoy the game. One of the objectives is that it will play much faster than a game of Empire, yet have each game be very unique and entertaining. There will also be a "limitless" aspect to it, something you do not find in other games.

I have begun that discussion in the forum regarding what players liked about the new aspects of EDEE. Please feel free to comment and discussion what you like, and what you feel should be added. That section of the forum will be an ongoing discussion for the time being.

The real action seems to be going on over at the Salient games website. I just cruised by there the other day, and it sounds like the WWII mod has been released in some form of beta. The guy doing it, aka WWII_Weasel, has put a great deal of time into it. Seems to me I have know he has been working on it for at least 7 or 8 months. I unfortunately do not have the time to play it. But if you do, I would recommend going over to www.salientgames.com and check it out.

Salient games also appears to be rebuilding the ladder. As many people know, the old ED ladder seems to have broken down. But I believe that the new one will be great fun for people to use. I hope tot see it up soon. Breaker said it would cover ED 3.1 through EDEE.

Salient Games is run by Andrew Peiman, aka "breaker", and is not affiliated with Killer Bee Software in any way (how is that for a disclaimer). Besides the fact that the webmaster is a huge fan of the Empire Series. I am a firm believer that the best content for a game comes from the community itself, and breaker is doing a great job. Make sure you go over there and think him for it, and if you can contribute, with a map, a hand, or something else, I am sure it will be appreciated.

So that is all I have to report at this time. I will report back around the end of next month, and hopefully I can begin to describe the game play involved with Galacticards II.

 


Update: January 7th, 2007 (Late) - Development In The Pipeline

Next Update by: February 19th, 2007

The New Year is here, and that always marks anniversaries. First off, Killer Bee Software has been in existence for four years now. It is also the second anniversary of Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition.

Last year was a slow year release wise for me, as I only managed to put out the scenario disk for the Perfect General. This year should be busier, as I begin development once again.

Speaking of the scenario disk though, Bill Sarubbi, the original author of the scenario disk, has made some changes to the original scenarios. Some things he has always wanted to fix. I did not include those in the disk release, because we were still looking over them. They are just about ready, and I should be putting them up on the extras page within a week or two. Anyone that has the Battles of the 20th set will be able to use them.

Also, I have talked with Bill about other scenarios that are still only in his mind. He sent me a list of "ideas" that he has, and it is quite an enticing list. I believe he is spending some time on ramping up with the editor. Hopefully there will be another scenario disk in the works.

I am currently still working on my contract and will be for some time this year yet. However, I have now managed to follow a development cycle that I believe works with this, and I am applying it as I work on Galacticards II.

This game will be somewhat different that its predecessor, but many similar elements will remain. The Universe structure will be less abstract, and the player will have control over his space forces and where to send them. The over population problem will be a little more manageable as well. And though the cards are still in the game, you no longer hold them from turn to turn, and you are able to select from a collection based on the subject matter you wish to pursue.

This is being developed with Garage Game's Torque Builder Engine. Last year I evaluated several products, but the Torque seems to meet my needs best. This will give me the ability to port it to the MAC as well, and possibly Linux. I have already built the map editor for this, and am now proceeding with the game. The editor portions will prove useful for the next editor for the Empire series as well.

I am not sure how long development will take, though the game will be done this year. I am considering having it ready by the end of the summer, and submitting it to the International Games Festival.

I also believe I have time enough this year to develop one other title, but I have not decided yet. The next version of the Perfect General has been burning on my desk for a long time. I will know more as the year progresses.
I am also going to begin the design work for the next version of the Empire series. I have felt that this will actually be two projects, one which maintains the rule set found in the Internet Edition, and the other that is the Enhanced edition. I will be exploring what has worked with EDEE and what maybe needs to be adjusted. I already have my list, and I am sure plenty of other people have theirs too. Like before, I want the next version of Empire to be what the community wants.

So plenty of stuff going on, and as you can see it will be a busy year. I will report back in February, with progress on Galacticards II and anything else that might pop up.

 

 



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