I look forward to it, and thanks for having the decency to improve what we've already got.
Diplomacy Update Releases in August
I've written a lot about the upcoming diplomacy update for Airships, but have so far refused to commit to a release date. Estimating how long software takes to write is hard, and I didn't want to produce a string of broken promises. Now I'm finally close enough to everything being ready that I can do so:
The diplomacy update will come out in August 2022. It's tentatively called "Airships: Conquer Together".
So that's in about five months, nicely two years after the 1.0 release. It will be a free update revamping conquest mode and adding a large number of features. A more financially savvy person would be selling this as an expansion pack or calling it "Airships 2". But it's free, because it's where I want the game to be at. After the release, any future major features will come in the form of expansion packs.
Why another five months? I want to make sure I have enough time to test, polish, and balance the game.
What does the update contain?
Co-op combat and conquest: You will be able to fight with any number of players and AIs to each side, each controlling your own ships. You can set up individual multiplayer combats with multiple players on both sides. And if you're allied in multiplayer conquest mode, you can fight alongside each other.
Full diplomatic system: You can conduct diplomacy to determine war, peace, and a number of levels of alliance and cooperation. You can send ultimatums to demand diplomatic concessions. And the AI is able to do all of this too, including a detailed numerical explanation for why it accepts or rejects a deal.
City upgrades: You can now upgrade your towns and cities with shipyards, factories, police stations, pleasure palaces, labs, and more. Balance your expenditures between building up your empire and conquering more of it.
World ages: As the game progresses, the world enters different ages that change the rules and balance of the game. An age of storms can make it harder for airships to navigate. An age of piety will see empires racing to control holy sites. An age of exploration lets you send out your ships to seek out strange new lifeforms to study and, er, plunder.
Fleet supply system: Logistics are a very important part of warfare. Yes, you can still assemble a doom stack of dozens of ships, but it will be a lot more cumbersome than a careful deployment of forces.
Reputation system: Breaking treaties and committing atrocities will decrease your standing, while defeating pirates and slaughtering monsters increases it.
New additional victory conditions: Instead of conquering every city, you can also amass enough power and reputation to have yourself declared emperor - though other players may interfere with your coronation going ahead. Or you can forge an alliance strong enough to dominate the world. Or, if you're a cultist, you can make worms erupt from everyone's eyes. That's a kind of victory, too.
New espionage system: An entirely new set of spy actions and mechanics that reward long-term planning and produce more interesting results.
A prettier map: Inspired by renaissance maps, featuring landmarks and marginalia drawings, and a clearer presentation of information.
Revamped tech tree: Based on player feedback, and adding in new technologies for city upgrades.
Revamped coat of arms bonuses: Also based on player feedback, and taking advantage of the new features in the game.
Various other balance and user interface improvements: Too many to number here individually.
So what's left to do in those five months?
Networking: This is the big show-stopper right now. Multiplayer games still have weird lag problems and failures. I really really really want to fix those before releasing an update that's about co-op combat and diplomacy. So right now, I'm doing regular test games and updates to figure out those problems and fix them. If you have had network problems with the game such as crashes or failed reconnects, please get in touch and volunteer for those test games, so I can figure out what's wrong.
Refining AI logic and performance: The new AI code for diplomacy is mostly complete now, but it simply needs more testing as well as some performance enhancements. Turns out that considering every single treaty you could sign with every single other empire in the game is kind of time-consuming!
Updating tutorials: Because the game - and especially conquest - has changed, I need to update the tutorials. As an existing player, you may not care about this, but the game needs to be accessible to new players as well.
User experience polish: With all those new features come a lot more user interfaces that have to be made usable.
Testing and balancing: Finally, an update this big simply requires a lot of testing to make sure it actually works and is reasonably balanced! There will probably be a closed beta followed by an open beta in the months leading up to the release.