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Killer Bee Software
General Development Status


Update: January 5th, 2004 - EDEE goes on its own.
Next Update by: As Needed(Retired)

There is not too much to report here, for most of the action is with Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition, which now has its own status report. I will open a new general status report for updates on general Killer Bee Issues and Events when it becomes necessary, and you will probably hear about future projects there first.

There will be a patch for Empire Deluxe Internet Edition sometime early Spring, and I will post more details about that as they come available. There have been a few issues reported, and they have been patched up. If you notice anything you feel needs to be looked at, definitely let me know about it so I can get it into that patch.

So for now, check out the status of EDEE.


Update: December 22nd, 2003 - Setting Up The Setup
Next Update by: January 5th, 2004

I've been quite busy working on the alpha build for Empire Deluxe Enhanced. The road has begun, and it is obvious it is going to be a long one. It's very exciting because I have a clear picture of what the game should be in my mind. Now I am tasked with implementing it. If I can successfully do this, the game is going to be awesome.

I would like to assure folks that though I have not posted an estimated completion date (though I have hinted at the summer '04), the implementation is going to be completed in a timely fashion. I know we have all seen many efforts where people have said they were going to create something, only for it to be endlessly delayed and eventually scrapped. I am committed to this project full time, and there is no reason why it cannot and will not be completed. It is the only project I am working on, though there is another one (or two) close behind, one of which will use some of the components constructed in this one. I think my record over the past year, with the timely release of both Empire Deluxe Internet Edition and The Perfect General Internet Edition, should reduce any doubts some people might have.

That being said, creating Empire Deluxe Enhanced is going to be quite a task, and it is going to be a lot of work. I have already spent a good deal of time the past couple of weeks working on the interface for setting up a game. I have received several comments from people concerned with the "complexity" of starting up and playing a game. I understand this concern and know that it is important that the user quickly and easily setup a game. Also, I know it is important to keep the Basic, Standard, and Advanced sets of rules available for those that wish to play them.

There is a lot involved in making it simple (if that makes sense), and I hope to share some of what has been done here.

When a player chooses to begin a game, his "default configuration" will be loaded. A configuration is basically a pre-defined set of rules for the game. So essentially, the game will come with several configurations that can be loaded/defaulted, one each for the three different "classic" game types, and a few more to introduce the new 'Enhanced' rules. Users will also be able to edit and save new configurations.

Once this configuration is loaded, it will be displayed for the user, grouped by the following subjects:

  • The Rules Options,
  • "Friendly" Victory Conditions,
  • "Enemy Defeat" Conditions,
  • "Other Victories"
  • Map Information
  • Unit Information
  • Terrain Information
  • Player Information

    The user will be able to adjust the data displayed in each of these groups, but the only data that must be added before he can begin a game is the player information.

    The rules options will allow the user to adjust the rules of the game. These rules are grouped into several topics. Some of the topics include Game Play Type, Exploration Mode, Production Rules, Combat Rules and Movement Rules to name a few. I already have over a dozen topics and three dozen different rules that can be set or toggled.

    The Friendly Victory Conditions are those that signify how a player can win a game, such as achieving a certain percentage of cities on the map or acquiring a certain average production efficiency.

    Then Enemy Defeat Conditions are those which, when they occur to a player, will cause him to lose and no longer be able to play. These include a Capital Captured or a loss of all of his important pieces in a Regicide setting.

    The Other Victories are settings for scoring type games like Capture the Flag and King Of the Hill. These types of games can be set to end on a certain score or number of turns.

    I am open to suggestions on these and other game ending conditions, and feel free to send me a mail at mok@killerbeesoftware.com to discuss them, or post them in one of the forums. Now is a great time to discuss them, for they could possibly be added to the game.

    The Map Information will depend on whether a map file, scenario file, or random map will be used. As with EDIE, players will be able to use a separate world building DLL to make maps if desired. Players will also have variables to tweak to adjust the world building process. Maps will also be able to wrap both horizontally and/or vertically.

    With the Unit Information the user will be able to pick the units available for the game. Units will be kept in sets, or as I am calling them, unit databases. You may only have one unit database loaded at a time, but databases can be married and edited in an editor before setting up a game. The user may load different databases and choose the one he likes best during setup.

    With the terrain information, the user can specify terrain he wishes to add or remove from the random map generation process. If a map or scenario file is loaded, this option will not be used.

    The player information will allow the user to add players, both human (solitaire, email or network) and computer, and describe their positions for start in the game. There are additional facilities for setting up remote games and advertising them on the Internet. The days of the "remote slave" will be gone, instead the initiating player will run as the server, and all players will connect to him.

    When the user has added all the players he desires, and has reviewed and tweaked any settings he feels he needs to, he may save the configuration for future reference if so desired, and begin to play a challenging game of Empire Deluxe Enhanced.

    Though it is a long way off at this point in time, I do plan on releasing a demo before the game goes on sale, so that people will have a chance to look at these aspects and others in the game.

    With the holidays work on the alpha will slow slightly, but the heavy crunch time of the New Year is right around the corner. I am not absolutely certain yet, but by the time of the next report, the game may have been officially announced and the feature descriptions for the game will be posted. EDEE may also have its own status report, and this "general" report may be retired at that time. I think the past few reports have been dedicated almost entirely to EDEE anyway.

    Now is the time for suggestions if you feel there is something you wish to discuss that you would like included in the game. I am always open to ideas, and a good place to discuss them is to do so in the forum or to send me an email.

    Speaking of the holidays, I do want to wish those reading this a happy and safe holiday season. In a couple of weeks that New Year will be here…there is much to look forward to in this coming year. It is definitely going to be an exciting one.


    Update: December 8th, 2003 - A View At 30,000 Feet
    Next Update by: December 22nd, 2003

    As I had mentioned in the previous report, not too much would occur between the reports. That down time is now behind me and I am very much looking forward to beginning the real work to make Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition (EDEE) happen.

    I have begun to move the parts of the design from the prototype into a working alpha. This work as well as the installation of other portions of the program will continue for this entire month. At some point in January I hope to have a playable alpha version which will proceed the on the long journey into production. How long the alpha will be is unknown, but it will be a few months for sure. There is much to do.

    I intend to put together a descriptive page on the game within the next month and officially announce the game and the features. I suspect the release date at this point in time will be called "Summer, 2004" which will give me quite a window to land in. As I move into Spring '04, I should get a better feel for when the release will occur. I definitely would like to land earlier in the summer than later.

    My biggest concern in regards to time is the amount of work that needs to be done, being an effort taken from scratch. There are always pitfalls that will need to be avoided, and possible unforeseen delays. I am not saying such events will occur, but one must always be prepared to act if they happen. One of the main purposes for this report is to keep those really interested in the status of the development in tune. As with EDIE and PGIE, if I run into issues that will delay the development or change the feature list, it will be discussed in the report.

    There is a lot that is going to go into the game, and I hope the descriptive pages will detail many of the features for the game, but I hope to give you a preview of what will be discussed in those pages here, a 30,000 foot view of them, so to speak.

    As with all comments on this game I have made to date, these are "forward looking" statements and the actually feature set certainly has not been finalized. But here are some feature highlights of what will be Empire 4.0:

    Game Rules:

    EDEE will retain the three current rule sets of the game, Basic, Standard and Advanced, as well as add three or more 'Enhanced' levels. These new levels will introduce such concepts as ranged fire, defensive fire, Engineering, more ways to enhance supply, and orbital rules for missiles and satellites, along with several other subtleties. Players will be able to select these levels, or create variations to them by adding/dropping units, and rules as they see fit. These 'edited levels' can be saved for future use. So it is entirely possible to make your own level which is just the Advanced game as we know it today with, say, artillery units and range fire rules added in.

    Games can be setup to be played in either a Round Robin fashion (as they currently are), or in a more "Simultaneous" fashion. By Simultaneous, does not mean like a Real Time Strategy game. Instead, all of your units are given orders, but those orders are not executed until the game has orders from all of the players. Then all units are moved at the same time and combat is resolved during that time. There is a more detailed discussion of this in the Killer Bee Forum for those that are interested.

    Different victory conditions will also make the game different without using a new level. Players will be able to play the classic total conquest, or strive to achieve other goals such as city counts, King of The Hill, Capital Kill, Capture The Flag, and Regicide to name a few.

    General Game Opponent Aspects:

    Players can make much larger maps, as well as have many more players, human or computer. Different AI player types can be selected for each player position.

    PBEM will still be supported and hopefully made secure.

    IP/Internet play will be supported. Players will be able to advertise and locate possible games and players for online play if they have an Internet connection. Connecting to the server will also be facilitated in a better way than is done in EDIE. Game statistic reporting will also be facilitated, to help report competitive play amongst individuals and groups.

    There will be no hot-seat play between humans.

    Game Customization:

    EDEE will be customizable in various ways. There will be the capability to create new units and new terrain and incorporate them into the game. Artwork and sounds can be exchanged or edited as with EDIE. Players will have the capability to enhance the computer players. Players should be able to tweak settings to make new and different AI players, as well as dive into a DLL interface for creating more challenging AI players.

    Game Interface:

    The game interface may change somewhat, though the focus will still be on the map. The player will be able to select individual units and cities and give them orders using the keyboard or mouse. More reports will be available to help you organize your forces and see how you are doing. Orders such as explore and patrol will still exist, as well as a few others like convoy and pursue. Players will be able to queue orders for units as well.

    Map and Scenario Creation:

    There will be a map and scenario editor which will be a program separate from the game, though it will use the same functions for generating random maps as the game will use. Maps and scenarios from EDIE will be convertible to EDEE. A DLL map and scenario building interface will also be supported.


    As you can see there is plenty to be done. At this point in time, it is all vaporware. I think my production of EDIE and PGIE has proven I can deliver what I set out to do, and in the time frame I have defined. I am very excited about making this a reality, and am looking forward to the Empire Series finally moving forward.

    So in the next two weeks, I will be working on building the basic foundation of the Alpha build, and at some point shortly after Christmas should begin releasing more detailed information about the features which will be included in Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition.


    Update: November 24th, 2003 - Prototype Has Reached It's Peak...About Time To Move On
    Next Update by: December 8th, 2003

    An awful lot of research has gone into the prototype the past couple of weeks. I have put combat in to try out various types of combat. These include the types that most Empire players understand, such as movement into a unit to kill, bomb or capture the other unit. These combat types are based upon the specification for each unit. What this means is that in a unit editor, you will be able to create new units that can use these attacks against other units.

    I also have added a few other attacks that have not been seen before. One of these is what I call Siege Combat. Siege combat can be either capture or kill, and works as a normal capture or kill attack against a defender that does not have any units inside it. However, with siege combat, if the defender does have units inside it, the attacker first must engage units inside of the host unit. This is how a fortress unit will behave. The defending units may also experience a defensive bonus due to being inside the fortress. This is configurable in the editor.

    Another attack type is the range attack. I must say I am quite pleased with how this worked in the prototype with artillery units, and will be an excellent addition to Empire. I have already noticed that range fire units in coordination with regular ground units such as Armor or Infantry make for some interesting maneuvers. Artillery is going to be a great addition.

    Another addition to combat will be the ability to engage in defensive fire. This ability will only be available to some ranged fire units (specified during editing time). If an enemy units steps within range, that enemy unit will be immediately attacked by the defensive range fire unit. Anti-Aircraft guns will be an example of this kind of unit.

    I have also worked on what will be the DLL interface for the Artificial Intelligence. This is going to be a very exciting part of the game, for other AI savvy folks will get their chance to code an AI for the game. This interface will be for C/C++ users. A few function pointers will be passed, as well as a mechanism installed for receiving data. Also, a few objects will have their interfaces exposed for information querying purposes. Oh yes, and I do make use of the Standard Template Library (STL), so AI programmers will need to be familiar with that as well.

    As I have mentioned in previous reports, there will be a way to adjust an AI through a file or script as well. This will not be nearly as powerful as being able to code your own, but it will be much easier to do, and non-technical people can dabble with this.

    I have also worked on the mechanism for simultaneous games in the prototype. Obviously, simultaneous play will change the game mechanics a little bit. It looks as if there will be things that one can get away with in the turn-based game that cannot be done in simultaneous play. This should not be a surprise to anyone. I do believe the changes should be minor, but they will have an impact on how players play. For example, due to the nature of simultaneous play, you will no longer in a single turn be able to use an aircraft to first explore an area and then react to what was seen by the aircraft that turn. Also, with the phased way the simultaneous mechanism is currently designed, you will not be able to do "sling shot" loading and unloading of units off transports. In other words, you will not be able to expect a transport to move two squares, and unload an armor unit on the ground for two more in the same turn.

    I do believe a limit has been reached in map size, due to an efficiency in searching I have introduced. Maps will most likely be limited to around 65,000 squares per side. I figure that will most likely be enough for now, seeing as how right now EDIE is limited to 254x254 maps ;>. The number of players is still virtually unlimited at this point. I am sure with multiplayer, operating system file descriptor limits will control the upper bounds for human opponents. How feasible such limits will be will always be a factor of physical memory and CPU capability. As I have mentioned in previous reports, I intend on giving estimates as to the demands of a game when it is being set up.

    Overall I am quite pleased with what has been explored and implemented with the prototype. In the near future, less physical code work is going to go into this prototype now, and a requirements and design document are going to be flushed out and re-written. These documents will be used as a check list guarantee all I want will be included in the game, as well as enable me to schedule the work that is needed. And it's definitely a lot that needs to be done. Reading the document is very exciting.

    With a big holiday coming up here, very little progress is expected at all with the prototype, and in December work will begin in preparation for the real deal: the program that will become an alpha then a beta, the something exciting you will get to play hopefully sometime this summer.

    I will also not be at my machine for most of the first week in December, so though not too much will takes place over the next two weeks. However, I do intend on reporting back with another status report in two weeks. It will probably be more forward looking towards what I want to accomplish before Christmas.


    Update: November 10th, 2003 - A Very Friendly Sort Of Game So Far
    Next Update by: November 24th, 2003

    The patches for both Empire Deluxe Internet Edition and The Perfect General Internet Edition were released right after Halloween. It has been pretty quiet in regards to issues with those two games since that release. Some minor things are being examined with Empire Deluxe, but currently nothing demanding a patch at the immediate moment.

    I have spent the past two weeks mostly working on the prototype for Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition. I will try to describe the prototype in a little more detail within this report.

    It really is not very exciting from a player's perspective, but it has proven out several concepts that will be important for the game. One can set up a game by listing the map dimensions, and setting the horizontal AND vertical wrap options. I like the dual wrapping maps. I know it is not "realistic", but it does make expansion and movement more interesting. The ability to wrap in both directions will definitely remain as a feature for the game.

    During setup, the "game master" is also able to choose the number of players and which units will be played in the game. There is no capability for additional human players at the moment, just one human versus however many computer players you wish to tackle.

    The computer players themselves are as dumb as they get. They currently just end their turn when told it is time to move.

    I have spent some time on working out issues with the "plumbing", and it has been worked and reworked in some areas, but lately I have had my focus on testing certain game mechanic aspects.

    The player can produce units and move them around the map. I have spent a good deal of time working out the mechanics for units loading and unloading. To experiment with this, I have added the "Truck" and the "Air Transport". Here are the current prototype images I personally drew (I am sure you will be very impressed):

    The big difference between these two (besides being air and ground) is that the Air Transport can only load when landed in a city or Airbase, and a truck can load outside of a city. Trucks can unload like a Sea Transport, but not Air Transports. Both are taking advantage of a new command, called "Drop". In order to drop a unit, the transporting unit must have movement left. When the drop order is made, the unit will place a unit it carries into the square it currently occupies. This dropped unit will not be able to move that turn. Then the transporting unit will be forced to move on, as a plane in over-flight is forced to move. This enables players to drop infantry units from an air transport as if they were paratroopers. It also allows trucks to drop off units that may not have any movement points themselves.

    Speaking of over flight, I have also added options for units (not just aircraft) to be able to pass through other units. This will be an attribute of the unit itself. What this means is that those armor units will now be able to pass through a square with another unit, as well as ships with this ability. This capability will still only exist for fighters and bombers in the old "Advanced" game, but in the "Enhanced Levels", I intend to let all units use pass through if they have the movement for it.

    Pass through ability is just one of the three dozen unit attributes that I have implemented so far. I am very pleased with how new units can quickly be added to the game. Currently, they have to be entered by hand into what I call the "database". This takes less than a minute, and very soon I am playing with that unit in the game. With a front end, adding and editing units will be extremely easy.

    What is currently missing in a big way from the prototype is any form of combat. It is a very friendly game, and the only way units can be lost are either through running out of fuel or disbanding them. But in the coming weeks this will change, as I work on testing out the mechanics for ranged fire and movement combat. I am sure by the next status report there will be plenty of fighting going on.

    Combat and various other aspects of the game and architecture will be worked on from now through the end of the year. There will be one week in the beginning of December where the prototype will not be worked on, but other than that it will receive a great deal of attention.

    I intend to begin working on the alpha version of the game in the start of January. There is much code in the prototype that will be reused for the alpha version, but the big difference is that the code written in the alpha is written with the intent that I will one day be part of the production source. The code in the prototype is fat and inefficient in some areas. When this is the case, it was written to prove concepts could be done in some way, not necessarily in the best way.

    In regards to scheduling, I still have no clear idea in my mind when this will be ready. I mentioned something in the last report about scheduling, but I am certainly not sure whether or not I can hold to those goals yet, and it will be January before I have a good idea of how it is going. The more questions that get resolved now with the prototype, the better the scheduling will be in the Spring. At times it seems it is almost mind boggling how much work has to be done, but I often think software construction is like building a house, and everyday I keep on laying one brick at a time. Soon enough I will have something very substantial built. I definitely will not want to rush this game out the door, but it will be important to get it out in a timely manner. So far it has been very exciting to see it take shape, as rough as it is for now. I will definitely try to keep you up to date on how it progresses within these status reports.


    Update: October 27th, 2003 - Ramblin' On
    Next Update by: November 10th, 2003

    The patches for both PGIE and EDEE are just about ready for prime time, and they will see a release hopefully this week. There's actually not much else to report on them at the moment, for things seem to be going smoothly with these two games, except the never ending reminder tp spread the word and tell folks how much you are enjoying the games.

    So the main focus will be more comments in regards to the nature of the EDEE prototype and more "forward looking" comments in regards to what EDEE potentially could be. (Remember, everything is subject to change).

    I have built a prototype for the game, and am adding to it and experimenting with it everyday. For the tech types among you who like buzz words, the vast majority of the code is 'Object Oriented' written in C++. Straight 'C' code does creep in especially when working on the display parts.

    I have discovered that to do the AI the way I want to (expose it to potential AI coders), many classes are going to have the source code of their headers revealed in the game's distribution. I plan to also open source all of the AI code I write, giving people a starting point for those who can compile code, but don't want to write an entire AI.

    The AI will not cheat, and players should not be able to write a cheating AI. It will only have the information made available to it that a player does. The AI will receive events from the game, which it will need to track and interpret. Events will be when an enemy unit is spotted, or when combat occurs.

    An AI will be able to have its own thread at all times if the programmer wishes, leading it to be able to work on strategy during its off turn, just like a human player would. Or, it may do all of its processing only when it is his 'turn'. All of the AI instances running in a game will be on the server. Different AI modules can be used in the same game.

    For those not wanting to program an AI, one AI module I plan to write will be a 'scripted' one, which will get it's general strategy from a script. Within the script, a player can change values to make the AI behave differently under different situations. This is still very vague and abstract at the moment as far as development goes.

    A general philosophy of mine is I do not like to impose limits on games unless absolutely necessary, so I have not made attempts to limit the number of players allowed in a game or the size of the map. There will of course be physical limits that a player will encounter due to the amount of memory used or CPU required. I am still determining the best technique to give the player an idea of what the resource cost are going to be before he attempts to start a game. I suspect there will be an 'estimate' displayed as to the demands on the server while a game setup is being done.

    The prototype currently focuses on the setting up and the starting turn of a game and the required distribution of data to all the players concerned. This is where the most action is.

    The days of the remote slave will soon be gone. Players will now contact the 'master' (which could be a dedicated server or a person also playing the game). All of this communication will be TCP/IP. The master/server will have the ability to advertise itself over the Internet or a Lan, with players checking into know, configured servers which have been told about the games.

    The prototype is also experimenting with the effective way to allow players to include new units and terrain. I feel I have an effective way of creating and representing these units from a data perspective, but am still working with how the units will be represented in a graphical way. I want to keep the graphical flexibility a player has now to customize his game if he desires. But there are issues because to the increased number of potential players, and the nature of the client server architecture. I don't think anyone is going to want have 15+ different unit graphical sets to distinguish between players if they want to encounter 15+ AI opponents in a game…

    Allowing additional terrain also can cause problems, not just with graphical representation, but with the subject of 'prettiness'. World build DLL programmers are familiar with only sending basic terrain types back to the editor, and the editor makes the map "pretty" for you by breaking it down into the coastline shapes and the mountains that Wydraz painstakingly made to fit so well together. But what happens when a player introduces a new terrain type? How can a map be made 'pretty' with new, previously unknown terrain types?

    Possible solutions to all of these questions are being worked on right now with the prototype. Prototyping is a powerful tool, because you can only claim so much on paper, but once you have the machine running, you can observe its flaws and find ways to make it better. Doing it in an Object Oriented fashion allows me to save parts of the machine that work the way I want them to, while discarding or reworking the others I am not satisfied with. Currently my prototyping has been very productive, and it is getting very addictive, as I want to add 'the next thing on the list' to see how it will work.

    I am still not ready to even suggest when EDEE would be ready for public consumption, but I will throw out my current hopes, which really is not worth much since EDEE has not been formally announced as a game yet…but in a perfect world, I would love for alpha and play testing to begin in January, beta by March or April, and release in May or June. But there are still several unknowns. But as it get closer to those times, check and see how this report is going and where I want to be, and that should give you a good gage as to where the game is and when it will be out. There is so much to do, but when it is done, the Empire Series will finally have started moving forward again, and that is very exciting.

    I really rambled on for this report, but hopefully it gives you an idea of some of the things I have been encountering and thinking about the past couple of weeks. In the coming weeks, I will still be with the prototype, adding to it and refining it.


    Update: October 13th, 2003 - Preliminary Construction Has Begun
    Next Update by: October 27th, 2003

    First let me say I had not realized I had listed October 10th as the next status report time. This was in error and I really meant the 13th of October (my traditional Monday reporting day), and did not see the mistake until I went to make this update. To anyone who actually read those dates and was actually expecting a report last Friday, my apologies. For those who did not observe such things, pretend you did not read this paragraph as well.

    PGIE

    The demo for The Perfect General Internet Edition can now be found on download.com under their "strategy and war" section. This has been great to get the word out. However, as I have mentioned many times, it is through your word of mouth praise that people are really convinced that the game is worth a look. So if you find the time, remember to drop in on your favorite forum and put in a good word for PGIE or EDIE.

    The trial patch has done fine from a single player perspective. However, I have also been working on a problem two players from Great Britain have encountered sporadically when they play online. This was a problem with one player locking up occasionally while the other was moving, with no request from the passive player for passing fire.

    It turns out a player who aggressively uses his mouse to stop then quickly redirect a unit moving while in network play can cause the two players to get out of sync, and things go downhill from there.

    This has been fixed, but the changes are extensive enough to warrant a couple more weeks of another trial patch. So in the very near future I will be releasing another trial patch for folks to play. Due to the changes in the network protocol, this patch will not be playable online with previous versions of PGIE, though the saved games will be backward compatible.

    I would encourage all of you who have purchased the game to patch up to this version if you are willing to try. Make sure to backup the old binary before applying the patch. Again, it should b released within the next 24-48 hours, and will be called "Trial Patch #2".

    EDIE

    I have been holding out on the EDIE patch, waiting to see if more issues arise than just the old game bug dealing with long ship and player names. There have been a couple of very minor things brought to my attention, and I am working on those this week. I am unsure when another EDIE patch will be, but most likely within the next ten days or so.

    EDEE

    I mention several details in this report about what EDEE is shaping up to be. I do want to caution that many of these are still "forward looking statements" as they say, and that EDEE is still in itself vaporware at this time. But the time for it to begin to take shape is coming soon, and I want to begin to share more details about it.

    This week I "broke ground" on the implementation of the architecture by writing some prototype code. The game is going to be built for multiplay from the ground up, but the single player will not experience any overhead. The objective is to allow as many players, computer or human, as the host machine can physically handle.

    I do not want to impose any limits where they are not needed. I want it to be completely possible (and easy) for one to set up a game against thirty computer opponents, or have an online battle of twelve or more players. I hope to build a dedicated server as well which players can use to play persistent and competitive games over a period of time.

    There will be a method for a client to find out if there are games available on the Internet, or to advertise themselves either as servers or players.

    The server aspects of the game should be virtually invisible to the solitaire player.

    The human multiplayer component is just one aspect of the game. The AI players will also be a big part of the game. Players will select various computer opponents when setting up a game. There will be an AI type which will accept a script which the casual AI dabbler can fool with. The script may list basic rules for expansion, defense, goals and rules of engagement. More serious and technically advanced players (and I have been asked about this by more than one AI doctorate student) will be able to write code and put it in a DLL with a defined interface to run a computer player.

    Beyond just the normal turn-based play, the architecture will also allow timed turns as well as simultaneous turns. A simultaneous game of Empire will be interesting, because it does change the game mechanic some what. I have written a first draft of the mechanics for simultaneous games. It will be interesting to see how it progresses. Although I do plan to include simultaneous play, I definitely believe it will be after release before we see if simultaneous play really works or catches on in the Empire Series.

    All of this architecture will be independent of the game rules themselves. However, the game rules will be contained within a game engine, which will exist within the game server. All calculations will be handled through this engine. So again, competitive games can be conducted with a secure third party server, free from a player's ability to manipulate or take back moves.

    The game design now is pretty advanced. There are several aspects of the game that I do not want to release information about at this time, but I will describe list the units below. The new set of units and supporting rules will be introduced in two to three "enhanced levels". The levels, as well as the Basic, Standard and Advanced levels are really just starting configurations. Each configuration will list the rules and units allowed in the game. You will be able to create custom start game configurations with the existing set of units or new units your design. You will also get to pick certain rules in an ala carte style.

    Some new and old rules are not optional, but are in all of the game types. However, they are not exercised unless particular types of units are also allowed in the game. For example, Empire Deluxe presents itself as not having terrain rules until the advanced game. This is really only due to the fact that the armor unit is not used until the advanced game. The Army unit does not experience terrain effects since it only has one movement point. Ranged Fire is an example of this that will be included in the Enhanced Version. Ranged Fire will not be an optional rule, but the inclusion of the different ranged units will be optional.

    The following is the current list of the new units to be added in the various levels of Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition. I am not going to explain them in any detail at this time, but will share more information on them when I can. As mentioned before, this list is still very fluid, and nothing is iron clad. If something you like that's on the list does not make it in my levels of the game, you can always add it with the editor and create your own game configuration. The current new units are:

    Artillery Units:

  • Light Artillery
  • Heavy Artillery

    Defensive Fire Unit:

  • Anti-Aircraft Artillery

    New Transport Units:

  • Air Transport
  • Truck
  • Helicopter

    Engineering Units:

  • Engineers
  • Sea Bees

    Units for Stacking:

  • Fort
  • Port

    Resource Drain Related Units:

  • Oil Facility
  • Supply Unit

    New Sea Unit:

  • Patrol Boat

    Orbital Units:

  • Satellite
  • Armed Satellite
  • Short Range Missile
  • Medium Range Missile
  • Long Range Missile
  • Medium Range Nuke
  • Long Range Nuke

    Someone had asked me about mines the other day. The concept of mines will be included in the game, but they will not be represented as units. Also, there will be some sort of special unit for regicide and CTF type scenarios. A "General" or some such thing.

    The presentation of this list will probably cause more questions than it answers at this point. It would take a lot of writing to explain these units, so I will save that for a later time. But I will state that the units are checked to make sure they fit in and make sense with the current mechanics of the game. EDEE will still be centered around simple rules of play with abstract units, and the capture of cities is the basic objective of play. This will not change.

    Some players will probably feel there are some units they may never want to use in their game. This is perfectly understandable, for as the Empire Series is finishing up its third decade, some players like the way it is now, or even how it was pre-Empire Deluxe. As I mentioned earlier, there will be several levels of configured play types, including those currently in EDIE, and you will be able to build even more customizable types at your discretion. So all players are satisfied with the old styles of play still easily available, and those that want to look beyond those with the addition of new levels to try. This will allow the game to evolve even farther if players wish it to do so as the years go by.

    The value added with EDEE over EDIE for the player who does not want to play beyond the Advanced level will be more players available, the programmable AI, additional victory situations, the server architecture, and the larger maps just to name a few. I will go into these in more detail in future reports as well.


    Update: September 29th, 2003 - It Will Be Challenging
    Next Update by: October 10th, 2003

    Future Projects News

    I have been putting a lot of time into the EDEE design. All of this has been thinking time, and time spent shaping the design document, which is coming along nicely.

    There are what I consider three major challenges to this new design. The new game, the new interface, and the new architecture.

    The new game is a huge challenge. The advance game of Empire Deluxe has withstood the past ten years very well. Any changes I make will turn it into a different game. This can be a good thing, but if done incorrectly, this will upset the balance and simplicity of the game.

    There has been some discussion on my board and a little email coming by me as of late with concerns for the new rule set, that it may be too complicated or that it may be too much for a simple game. It's funny, for I remember hearing something similar when ED was initially released. I remember personally playing the "Standard" game for quite a while before I moved on to the Advanced game. I plan to maintain the current levels of play, as well as add two or three more on top. Some of the new rules may not be for everyone, but I think I will be able to facilitate the user's desire to keep some and discard others.

    Effective units which contribute to the game are going to be a big challenge. Currently I have close to twenty new unit "candidates" which I am constantly reviewing and evaluating. This list is not getting bigger, it is getting smaller. I am trying my best to remove units that are too specialized or that radically change the way the game is played. Some units are simple to put in, such as Artillery and Air Transport, and there is a "Truck". It gets more complicated if you add an anti-aircraft capability, as well as satellite and missile rules without breaking the spirit of the game.

    All of this is a very long road in the game design, for after it is all vetted out on paper, it will be put into code and play tested to determine what contributes and what does not in a play testing manner. Undoubtedly some of it will change at that time as well.

    The new Interface will also be a challenge. EDIE is a very busy game, and there is a lot to do and command. But the EDIE interface definitely has short comings and these need to be addressed. I have received many comments about what is difficult to do. With the maps getting bigger and the number of potential opponents increasing, (as well as the new units and rules), the game will need to be able to prevent the player from becoming overwhelmed. This hopefully will translate into better ways to give orders, orders that can do more and be automated more, as well as better reporting and capability to manipulate cities and groups of assets in situations even though they may not be physically close on the map.

    The architecture is going to be a big challenge. The infrastructure to run the game engine will change, as well as enhancing the connectivity of the game to allow players to reach out in an easy way. All of this must be put in place without it hindering the users ability to play the game and enjoy it, be it a single player game, PBEM game or a live multiplayer slugfest.

    Also, the facilitation of the editors is going to be a challenge. The ability for players to be able to tweak units or make new ones and incorporate them into the game is important.

    So at this point I am no where near beginning real implementation of the game, and October will end before I am ready to do so. The past two weeks has really focused on the additional rules and units, and this will continue, though some of the architecture issues will be reviewed very soon. I want to have the rules sets down fairly well before the Interface becomes defined on paper, though I already have a good idea in my mind how I want it to work.

    Reading over this, I have hardly revealed any of the real challenges in this project in detail, and some of it sounds scary. It is definitely a challenge, but I do not wish to give the impression I am not ready to meet it. I have a fairly clear idea of what EDEE will be like, I am definitely looking forward to it becoming reality. It will be an exciting time when a demo of this is finally produced, and people will be able to judge for themselves if the challenge was met appropriately.

    EDIE News

    Not too much to report on EDIE. The patch has been released without problems, and the next patch covering the old long ship name bug has not been prepared yet. It probably will not be prepared until lat next week. There are a couple of other minor issues to examine, but all in all it's fairly quiet on the EDIE front.

    PGIE News

    PGIE has garnered another mention in William Trotter's side bar in the November issue of PC Gamer. It also contains a screen shot of the game. There is some information in the article which is not correct, and you probably have noticed me putting up some clarifications of a couple of them on the web site.

    The "Trial Patch" for PGIE has been released and several users have downloaded it. There so far has not been any reports of problems or issues with the patch. If things continue like this, we could see a release patch in a couple of weeks.

    There have been some more maps and scenarios added to the Yahoo Group. You should check them out.


    Update: September 15th, 2003 - EDEE Will Be Next
    Next Update by: September 29th, 2003

    Future Projects News

    Well, its probably going to be a slow news day for the status report but it has not been slow for me. I have been heavily involved in working on the designs both on EDEE and another project that I am not ready to divulge yet.

    One event that has occurred is that the decision has been made to table of the interim project that I mentioned in the last status report. The actual game design was not satisfactory enough to be worthy of the time required to make a full-fledged project out of it. There was hope that it would come together, but it still has various holes in it which do not make it worth the time to pull it together at this point, for there are more substantial designs waiting in the wings to be realized.

    What this translates into is good news for those folks anticipating the arrival of Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition, for that game is now definitely next on my implementation plate. But it will be a while longer before implementation begins. There is still a great deal of recording to be done in the design document, and my focus will turn upon this very soon. As I mentioned before, there is also another design that is being worked on as well, which I think ED fans will be most pleased with. More on this in future reports.

    So at this point in time, I consider "Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition" as the next game to be released by Killer Bee Software. EDEE is only the working title at this time, though I do not know if it will change. As soon as I feel the design requirements are straight, I will begin to post feature information, so that those interested in commenting on these features can praise or criticize them. I am quite pleased with how the design is shaping up, and really wish I could just snap my fingers to make it happen. But reality tells me otherwise. Hopefully within a couple of months I can release some schedule information.

    EDIE News

    A patch for EDIE has been released, bringing the latest version up to 3.512 #006P. This patch seems to have gone extremely well, for no one has experienced any issues post patch. That being said, an old game bug involving Long Player Names in combination with Long Ship Names has reared its ugly head. This bug can cause a crash, but only when a player is viewing the combat report, or when a player is being attacked in a network game, and the long name combinations appear.

    I have alerted the Yahoo group about this bug, and since it does cause a crash, I intend to put a patch for it out soon…most likely the first or second week of October. So far this is the only issue that is to be patch, though there is one other regarding status messages that was brought to my attention that I am still investigating.

    If you have any other issues you feel need looking over, definitely contact me at mok@killerbeesoftware.com and I will look into it.

    PGIE News

    I am still investigating the problems that one user in particular is having. I hope to have this cleared up very soon, and a beta patch for PGIE may be released as soon as next week. I believe it is best to do a beta patch for the first release, for there are many changes in this patch, and I want to insure the stability of the patch. This worked well for the first patch release of EDIE.

    The beta patch will be provided to interested registered users of the game (i.e. those who have purchased it). They will be cautioned to back up their old executable before applying the patch, just incase serious problems arise. Then they can patch as normal. If they encounter problems with the patch, they are asked to report them to me.

    If all seems well, then the real patch is released a couple of weeks later. This is beneficial to those who want to see problems resolved, and beneficial to me because my beta testing group has basically been disbanded since release. It gives those who have purchased the game an opportunity to help in the quality of the game.


    So by the next report I should close to having a beta patch out for PGIE, and be preparing another release patch for EDIE. Also, the EDEE design should really be coming together, and I hope soon after that to begin getting out more details about 'Enhanced' game beyond the abstract ideas I have posted so far.


    Update: September 1st, 2003 - Lotsa Stuff while In Between
    Next Update by: September 15th, 2003

    At this point in time I am between projects. This is due to the recent completion of the effort to take the existing source bases of The Original Perfect General and Empire Deluxe, and bring them back to a level where they are playable and can be supported.

    I am very pleased that these projects were completed, with the delay of the combined projects from the original schedule being only a total of four weeks (was originally hoping PGIE would make it in July). Both games, Empire Deluxe Internet Edition and The Perfect General Internet Edition are now out for people to play, and have been received very well.

    So this is the time when I am now able to look forward and determine how it is best to proceed with future projects. I have spent the last few weeks taking some rest from the coding grind, and looking into future game designs.

    I have yet to have a main project of focus, and it will be a few weeks before this occurs. So until that time, I will report in this general status report on a bi-weekly basis until I begin generating a report for the next project. After that, this report may continue to be updated regularly or sporadically, we will see. I am "retiring" the EDIE and PGIE status reports, and placing any information within this report unless it merits reporting elsewhere.

    So in the rest of this report, I will discuss EDIE and PGIE maintenance, as well as give some information about the next Killer Bee projects.

    EDIE

    Empire Deluxe has been recognized by PC Gamer's William Trotter as an excellent entry-level game for the wannabe wargamer. I certainly agree with him, and I am glad he has mentioned this, because I have seen an occasional post from 'veteran wargamers' in forums criticizing the return of Empire Deluxe mainly because it is an 'old game'. I am glad see Mr. Trotter does not have such tunnel vision. He points out the game's simplicity and addictiveness in his article in the October 2003 issue, saying its great for anyone wanting to get into wargaming.

    I did note that the article did mention both the older 3.11 version and EDIE. I would like to remind those considering getting the 3.11 version that only through their support of EDIE (i.e. your purchase of the game and your word of mouth praise about it) will the future of the Empire Series stay out of the dark, where it has been for some time. If anyone thinks I am in this just for the money they need to rethink their logical thought processing ability…but people must also realize I must be able to recoup my investments to justify the project, and if I cannot do that, I will be forced to go do something else.

    Empire Deluxe Internet Edition should have a patch released within the next week. The patch has been completed, but it needs to be tested thoroughly. The changes are minor, but they do squash a few bugs within the program. These include a couple of bugs that have appeared in certain rare pathing situations, the problem with Commanders not receiving end of game points for conquering cities, and a problem with cities over 200% production dropping to 200% if left on 'No Production' too long. One new minor feature was also added, and this was a display of the total and average production efficiency for a players cities in the city display report.

    PGIE

    The Perfect General Internet Edition will most likely be patched at the end of this month. Very few issues have come up, but there have been a couple of situations where the game can freeze when transitioning between phases and the user is actively doing actions in the interface. Also LOS determination can turn out to be asymmetrical (an old game bug) and this has been fixed. Also a few minor menu tweaks were made. All in all the issues are low in priority or frequency, so I am still waiting a bit longer to see if other issues arise before putting out the first patch.

    The editor was patched when it was discovered that the distributed version was not flagging roads correctly when maps were saved. Since the editor is a separate application and considered more of a work in progress, it can be patched and released much faster than the game itself. This patch can be found on the PGIE extra stuff page. If those who have used the editor have comments about additional features they would like to see in it, send me a mail at mok@killerbeesoftware.com .

    Future Projects

    Well, I have finally begun to really look forward for the next Killer Bee Software project.

    What is currently referred to as "Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition" (EDEE) is a very important step and is on the radar screen, but may not be the next game released.

    First, I want to lower the level of concern for those who love the Empire Series but are afraid it is about to be contorted and twisted to where it is a completely different game. EDEE will encompass new rules, but the Basic, Standard, or Advanced versions of the will be preserved and still playable as they are now. Also, over the past eight months I have received a ton of email and some posts on various forums describing new units and additional rules and features for EDEE. While many of them are good and some may be used, it is my intention to not radically change some of the basic tenets of the game.

    I do not wish to speak in detail of the game design right now for it is still very fluid. However, I will say the following are some of the abstract concepts that are drawn up in the new design (listed in no particular order):

  • Weather effects and Weather Systems
  • Ranged Fire Units
  • Air Defensive capabilities
  • Air and Land Transports
  • Outer Atmosphere units (Satellites/Missles)
  • Additional Production Enhancement Strategies
  • Engineering Units
  • Roads over terrain
  • Fortresses and Digging in rules
  • New Terrain Types
  • Nuclear combat possibilities
  • New Victory Conditions
  • Round Robin and Simultaneous Play
  • Alliance Agreements
  • Linked Scenarios for Campaigns

    Again, the objective with these concepts is to remain within the current game mechanics as best as possible.

    Add to that list the following program capabilities

  • Editors for units/terrain/maps/scenarios/campaigns
  • Greater # of allowable players
  • Virtually Unlimited Map Sizes
  • Ability to run a game with a dedicated server
  • Greater facilitation of connecting to games and ability to communicate inside a game
  • Programmable Artificial Intelligence Possibilities
  • More interface exposure for world building and other game functions

    But First, Something In Between?

    Some of the items in second list require a good deal of focus in regards to implementation. I am seriously consideraing first producing an interim game project that will incorporate those features allowing them to be built and flushed out, then used for EDEE and other possible projects in the future.

    I am not ready to officially announce this project yet, but it would be a very simple turn-based strategy game with possibilities for collaborative team play. In the end, it should be both single player and multi player. As I had mentioned previously, it will be focused on providing certain capabilities regarding network play in a turn based strategy game. In light of the way it is going to be designed, it is very possible the beta test for it will be 'open', at least the multi player part of it.

    The project would not take a great deal of time. The time spent on it would really be in benefit of projects like EDEE. If this does happen, it will be announced very soon and scheduled work towards it would quickly begin. Look for more details on this in the next report.


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