April 18, 2014

Interplanetary Released to Steam Early Access!


It's here! Interplanetary has now been released on Steam as an Early Access title. If you're ready for some interplanetary warfare, you can go get the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/278910

What a ride! We'd like to thank everyone who took part in the alpha code testing phase. Your feedback has been valuable and we hope you'll follow us onto the next step of Interplanetary's journey!

Since Interplanetary is in Early Access, we will keep developing it while you can play it, taking advantage of Steam's features. Don't forget to send us your critique, bug reports and ideas so we can keep making the game better and better.

You can still use our survey to report your experiences or simply go to the Interplanetary Discussion Board on Steam.

As a final note, don't forget to check out our Facebook and Twitter these days. We may have some additional surprises in store for you! You can also join us at QuakeNet #Interplanetary for matchmaking or casual chatting.

Thank you! Let's all have fun blasting each other to bits!

April 15, 2014

Interplanetary Arrives to Steam Early Access This Friday!


Surprise! It's finally time to move to the next level: the Steam Early Access version of Interplanetary will be released April 18th, which is this Friday!

We decided that going Early Access was a natural continuation of Interplanetary's journey, as we've already had close collaboration with its players during development. By continuing on to Steam, we'll be able to reach a much wider audience than ever before, which helps the development a huge amount.

Like usual, buying the Early Access version at a reduced price will also give you all the future updates until the game is finished and you'll be able to better influence the direction of the game through your feedback.

New Features

For the Early Access release, we've prepared an exciting new feature: Superweapons. These are unlockable through the Tech Tree and will wreak serious havoc with your enemy's planet.

This planet's going to have a bad time.
Currently, we've implemented two superweapons:

  • Asteroid Diversion
    • Diverts a group of asteroids towards the enemy planet, causing massive damage. Works similarly to the railgun, except that the starting point is the asteroid field at the edge of the planetary system and you'll be shooting a cluster of space boulders instead of one small shot.
  • Solar Laser
    • An accurate and powerful weapon, the Solar Laser is fired from it's own orbit close to the sun. Unlike with normal lasers, it can shoot to any direction, unless there are other celestial objects blocking its line of sight.

These weapons are pretty devastating, so make sure you get them before your opponent does!

In addition to superweapons, we've been doing a lot of smaller updates all across the board. Some of the major ones include the ability to have hotseat matches with up to 4 players and many graphical and UI-fixes. There are also plenty of balance adjustments, so make sure to weigh in with your opinions.

Time to get hyped!

Hop onto www.interplanetarygame.com and join our mailing list for timely updates.

March 18, 2014

Interplanetary Alpha Update: New Features


It's finally here: a huge alpha update, full of interesting new features and fixes to test drive! Might also be the final alpha update that will be available with a code, if there are no massive issues with it. We're steadily rolling out towards the beta version and we have something different in store for that.

Anyways, here's a little list of all the major features in this one:

  • Intel Mechanics
    • You now need to build Intelligence structures to be able to see your enemy's structures; however it's also possible to hide your activity by building counter intelligence structures.
  • Tech Tree
    • An experimental, simplified tech tree lets you unlock buildings and gain additional bonuses.
  • Construction Yards
    • Structures are now functional only the turn after they're placed on the map.
  • Ruins
    • Destroyed buildings leave behind ruins
  • Networking Fixes
    • Better stability for matches with more than two players

Unfortunately, online play still doesn't work properly for people using a mobile connection, but we're working on fixing that for later. 

The update can be downloaded for Windows, Mac or Linux from interplanetarygame.com using the alpha code. If you don't have a code, you can ping us at Facebook or Twitter and we'll get you one. 

February 26, 2014

Inside Interplanetary: Releasing a Public Alpha


Netcode! What have you done to my planet!?
Good evening, friends! Game Design Sasu, here! We're gearing up for a new alpha update, at the moment. It's looking quite nice, but there are still many interesting bugs to weed out. In addition to that, there seem to be multiple kinds of flu hanging around the TJR ecosystem. We're falling one by one!

In the meantime, I thought I could write something helpful for fellow indie devs. I already talked about this before on our IndieDB forums, but it was deemed useful enough to dedicate a blog post to it.

Today I'm going to talk about our experiences with giving out test versions of Interplanetary.

Preparation

There really is no substitute for a proper user testing. Everyone will eventually grow blind to the problems with their game, so fresh people are needed to give some perspective. We had had a couple of small testing sessions with our friends and relatives, but we needed more and variable data. Reaching out to gamers of the Internet was the answer.

Before sending out your alpha to the masses, consider why you want to do that. Do you need testers, publicity or just people to play your game with you? Our main priority was to get useful feedback, so we took that into account when building the testable version.

We had to make sure to give the testers the features we wanted them to test. The targeting system especially was something we wanted to get a lot of feedback on. This also meant that some of the more irrelevant features would need to be polished not to drag too much attention to them, or simply left out altogether. We didn't want people to just comment: "the planet graphics suck" and leave. When giving feedback, it's easy to grab into the most obvious thing and ignore the others.

Seriously, try to iron out the distractions.
To gather the feedback, we created a survey with SurveyMonkey and put a link to it in-game. Looking back on it, we should've also given the link to each tester when contacting them for the first time - surprisingly many missed the in-game survey link and later asked how to provide feedback.

When creating a survey, it's important to think of the right questions to ask; most people won't bother writing out their life stories. You need to make the survey very easy and to the point. Try to add some very specific questions to steer the testers to concentrate on things you need comments on. The current version of our survey works well enough. People have a chance to comment on many different things, but they aren't forced to fill out every space to submit.

This system worked well until we reached over 100 answers. The free version won't show more than that, so we needed to pay a fee to access the rest.

Distribution

How to actually go about distributing the alpha version to the testers depends on many things. Interplanetary's first alpha version was a very incomplete game, filled with all kinds of issues. To say that we were hesitant putting it out there would be putting it mildly. Ease of access is the key of getting people to test a game which doesn't have an established reputation, but we still decided against simply sharing download links or using the Unity Web Player (doesn't really work out in Interplanetary's case anyway.)

This is when the idea of alpha keys came along. We would announce the alpha testing and ask hopeful testers to contact us to receive a code they can use at our website for a download link. This way there was less room for misconceptions, as we could explain to each individual tester the situation with the game. No one would just stumble across it, thinking it was the final product. We could also draw out the more serious testers; even if the process of obtaining the code is rather painless it's still a step that gets us into contact with the people most interested in the game.

For convenience, we mostly used our Twitter and Facebook to share the codes. We could then use these networks to easily communicate with the testers afterwards.

We also made code cards for live events. Spent some fun nights sticking codes on them.
The whole "system" worked manually: a person would contact us, ask for a code and we would give it to them along with instructions. An automatic system of some kind might have saved a lot of time, but I personally prefer direct contact, so it's easier to answer to questions and such. There was a period when I really wished we had a robot for this, though: the day we were noticed by RockPaperShotgun was absolutely insane! I had to spend days answering all the code requests we were getting.

Once Interplanetary landed to Steam Greenlight, we changed the system a little bit. Partially for the convenience for the users and partially for my sanity, we decided to build a special Greenlight Alpha with a direct link to it on the page. This version was less experimental than the earlier ones and the aim was to make it also work as a sort of a very early demo; a tight package with the main features polished well enough. Being in Greenlight, people would also more easily understand that it's an incomplete version. A playable version, along with screenshots, videos and description, worked well to give people a full idea on what the game was to be and also show that Interplanetary is not a mere concept. Never underestimate the power of screenshots and videos, though: no one would have bothered to download the alpha, even if it's completely free, if we hadn't given them a peek to get them interested first.

A certain website even took the Greenlight Alpha without asking and ported it for Wondows.
As of today, the PC version has been downloaded from the Greenlight page 3,513 times and the Mac version 225 times. We received 34,251 "Yes"-votes during the campaign, so not nearly everyone found their way to the download link, which is probably partially because we couldn't place the link in the main description by the way Greenlight works. We had to make a separate news announcement on the page, but they are not particularly eye catching. We should've pointed this out in the main description.

For the Greenlight Alpha, we opted to use Mediafire to host the game files. Considering the popularity of Interplanetary's Greenlight campaign, this was a good decision: having to pay about 20 cents a download on our server, would've cost us a lot. The only drawback here was that the URL pointed to Mediafire, which isn't quite as "cool" as hosting the files on your very own space. We paid for the service, however, so the link was direct and there was minimum hassle for the players.

External file hosting sometimes makes you evil.
We were and are still giving out alpha codes to people, since the Greenlight Alpha was the only version distributed by a direct link. The latter updates would require a code. This seemed to work quite well and caused relatively little confusion.

Conclusion

I can really recommend using an alpha code system for everyone. We've received tons of good comments and followers because of it. Semi-regularly updating the alpha version also gives you nice mile stones for development. It can sometimes be quite a chore to handle the code requests, but typically the flow is steady enough to manage. We still get a couple of  inquiries every day, but whenever there's media coverage or something else, the amount skyrockets.

Starting to run out of codes real soon, actually, so give us a holler and we'll get you yours! There's at least one more alpha update on the horizon, so expect that!

February 11, 2014

Interplanetary Wiki Launch and Networking Fixes


Like a bolt out of the blue, it's Interplanetary Wiki! Curse has been gracious enough to offer us a space on their Gamepedia and now we have our very own space for all knowledge on Interplanetary. Being a wiki, anyone can add to it and they should! So to all you wiki enthusiasts: go have a field day! Just keep in mind the usual rules of conduct.

Can't wait to see what kind of things will start popping up there! Of course, we may join in periodically to add in some super secret information...

What about the Game?

While the wiki is a pretty awesome thing, I'm sure you're curious about how Interplanetary is progressing. We are still planning on rolling out with an alpha update within the coming weeks and we haven't forgotten about you Linux users either! I'd say that the big thing causing us trouble, at the moment, is networking.

A common problem reported to us has been the non-functional "Start Game"-button in the Online Lobby. We've found the problem, and while the fix hasn't been implemented, it is possible to work around it by restarting your computer and trying again. The problem is connected to the way the game chooses a random port to use in the online game, and if the port isn't free, the game won't start. By restarting your computer, the game chooses a new, hopefully free port.

Frustration!

We were actually working on updating the alpha over a month ago, but while adding the new features, we noticed that our online game just didn't support them well enough. Back to the drawing board, then! For now, we're working on adding support for the upcoming features, in addition to fixing some of the other things. As some of you may have noticed, Defenses aren't very reliable in online games; this is not by design!

Other things that we're fixing include the addition of host migration, accurate victory screens and better data synchronization between players.

It's been a doozy, but solving the issues with networking will surely make things easier for everyone. Expect an update in the coming weeks, but be patient! There's still a lot to work out.

January 15, 2014

Interplanetary's Greenlight Stats


Hi, everyone! Game design fellow Sasu, here! Interplanetary's Greenlight campaign is over and development continues. It's a very busy time for the whole team, implementing some new features and shining up the game here and there. We've had a lot of very useful feedback and we're working hard on getting the best ideas in the game.

We've been meaning to release a new update for the alpha version for a while now, but we've encountered some pretty substantial networking problems. Hopefully, we'll have time to work them out sooner than later and put out something new for everyone to play. The Intel System and Tech Tree would really need some outside testing!

For now, I figured that we could talk some more about the mysteries of Greenlight, mainly all the stats that become available for you once you start your campaign. I'm sure many other indie developers are thinking about getting on there, so why not open up the process even more?

Miscellaneous Greenlight Mumblings

I've already gone through the basics of the Greenlight process in an earlier blog post. This time, let's concentrate more on some interesting details.

Interplanetary was Greenlit on January 7th, along with 49 other games. Valve informed us on this by e-mail and the process of applying the game for sale on Steam continues. It's basically some paperwork that needs to be done (and actually finishing developing the game).

Even though the game is through, the Greenlight page still remains. This is good, since we can keep using the page to inform its followers of game updates and other news.

One of the most interesting aspects of the campaign were all the beautiful stats we got to analyze. It was quite thrilling to see our rank rise to top 100 and eventually to #4.


This is what the main box looks like now. There also used to be a number showing our progress towards top 100 and eventually our rank among all the games on Greenlight.


It's also possible to compare your progress with the average progress of the current top 50 games. This gives a good context to the values and something to strive for. After all, the games tend to be Greenlit in big batches of 50 or 100, so once you reach the average, your chances are pretty good.


According to the averages, "yes" and "no"-votes usually go pretty much 50/50. I suppose even "no"-votes are better than no votes.


Again, a good chance to make some comparisons to other items and get an idea on what numbers you are aiming for. The comparison lines change periodically and sometimes you encounter some pretty insane graphs looking down on you and making you feel discouraged. Who's laughing now, red line?


A graph also lets you look back on your ups and downs during the campaign. October was when we first started working on our Greenlight page and the big jump signifies the moment we finally made the page public. Interestingly, there was quite a big jump again, once the Steam Holiday Sales were over.

Pretty nifty, huh? The page still receives new views and comments daily, although it's nowhere near as active as it used to be.

I hope this was enlightening for some of you aspiring Greenlighters. If you have time to dedicate on all the preparation, I definitely recommend going for it. Even if we hadn't passed, we still would've had our community grow and received a lot of good feedback.

January 8, 2014

Interplanetary has been Greenlit! Huzzah!


We did it! Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to check out the game and voted for it!

Now that our pathway to Steam is finally open, we can continue to concentrate on finishing the game. Interplanetary is steadily approaching it's beta state, but there's still a lot to do.

As you may know, you can also help by trying out the current alpha version of the game and giving out some feedback. Once you have an alpha code (available by pinging us on Twitter or Facebook), you can move out over to www.interplanetarygame.com and grab the test version!

Thanks again, everyone! We literally couldn't have managed this far without you!