There are a few different things going on that I’d like to talk to you all about. I’m pretty excited.
IC now runs itself
Firstly, our first fully automated round has come to a smooth conclusion, with the end of round automatically triggering the creation/registration/voting of the next round.
It’s really cool to see this working as intended and although there are some improvements to be made, having seen the round play out without issue, I now feel confident declaring this feature a great success. Hooray for IC running itself!
As expected, reducing the admin work has freed me up for more dev work.
Tech Upgrades / Feature Prep
I’ve spent the last month reworking the site’s technical foundation, with 2 specific things in mind:
- Offloading the game’s database to its own server
- “Containerizing” the game with Docker
The timing for this work actually came from financial considerations: I have a personal need to cut costs and running IC has been more expensive than it should be for quite some time.
By reworking the game’s technical infrastructure, I’ll be able to get the game running on cheaper and less powerful servers but without taking hits on performance. Better yet, initial tests are showing that the game will actually run faster on a smaller server as a result of this overhaul and ongoing optimization work.
But that’s all kinda boring. The far more interesting thing is that this solves a long-standing problem that I originally wanted to work on last March:
This is now solved: within a few minutes I can create an offline copy of IC that runs on my computer, that is exactly the same as what you all play. This used to take me hours (at best) and it wouldn’t even be a true replica of the production game.
This is doubly beneficial as it has also allowed me to safely (and quickly!) work on new things in an isolated manner. Case in point, the dev site is back online and running the version of the game that is using the new upgraded DB. I can troubleshoot both versions at the same time without issue.
The really really cool thing though is that this will facilitate more significant feature work, which is what I’m actually most excited for.
Core Gameplay Changes
While I was doing the work for the game to run itself, I thought a lot about autonomy in general; the idea that having to be overly dependent on others has been a big pain point for IC for its entire history.
When you haven’t been dependent on staff for the game to run, you’ve been dependent on each other to enable basic gameplay elements that should not require other people. For example:
Growing (both econ and through war) depends too much on coordinating with active family members.
Defending yourself depends too much on coordinating with active family members.
Playing the market depends too much on the galaxy having enough players.
For many (but not all) players IC is a team game, so some dependency on others is a good thing. However, when a family member going inactive becomes a death sentence, there is something wrong.
This problem isn’t caused by our declining playerbase, it’s revealed by it. @Acitorer said it well recently:
I’ll take it a step further though: IC’s ruleset was always flawed in this way, even with a bigger playerbase. I don’t know if any of you recall but in IC’s heyday if you were in a sufficiently small family, you experienced much of the same problems that we talk about today: people not seeing a point, feeling “stuck”, and failing because of a bad team despite being individually skilled, etc.
Without going deeper into a tangent, this was imo a result of players optimizing the role/specialization game, and IC never properly adjusting to maintain a sense of balance.
The technical work that is underway is setting the stage for the first of many significant changes that I am going to make to the game.
One bigger change I’m going to start testing soon is reworking races, such that:
Spells/ops will no longer race-specific, and anybody can learn anything
- This will likely involve an overhaul to research, and/or an inclusion of some kind of skill tree
Race stats are going to be reworked, so things like income and travel speed are no longer race-specific, but will be replaced with new stats like intelligence that will have other effects (intelligence could increase op success rate, for example)
- This will have a pretty huge impact on pretty much everything
These are obviously not small changes, so we shouldn’t expect a complete overhaul anytime soon. However, I’m going to chunk out what I can so that we can test things iteratively, which is going to be much easier given the recent tech work.
The goal here is to rebalance IC not just to accommodate our smaller playerbase, but to fix its underlying problems that have always been there.
I’m done rambling!
I have a bunch more clanking around in my head, and obviously feel free to ask about any of this stuff.
I’m going to focus on finishing the tech overhaul and getting it to production, and after that we’re gonna be looking at some of the biggest gameplay changes we’ve seen in years.
See you all on the battlefield!