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SLiV

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A member registered Oct 10, 2017 · View creator page →

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Epicinium is now live on Kickstarter

After over a year of development and testing, we're confident we can show that the game is already engaging and fun, and that we're capable of successfully completing development. To help show this, we recently recorded a match between several of our community members featuring developer commentary. You can view the highlights here:

One major feature we want to add to Epicinium is a singleplayer campaign. We're teaming up with Loulou Swarte to write a singleplayer story where you are faced not just with enemy forces, but also with some tough choices about what weaponry to use and which methods of war to employ. Here's a quick preview of what that could look like in-game:

We are also making the game even more readable and expanding the player's tactical options with more units and game modes. Some additional multiplayer functionality, such as a 16-player multiplayer mode, can be unlocked by sharing our Kickstarter announcement tweet. If enough people share our announcement post on Facebook, the following zany game modes will be added to the game:

The game is planned for release in Q3 2019. Next to a regular release on Windows, macOS and Linux, we will release a separate open-source version if the Kickstarter is successful.

Besides getting the game on release and gaining access to the beta, backing our Kickstarter can also get you all sorts of other rewards, such as a Kickstarter-exclusive skinset. Here's a first look:

Epicinium was made without any outside funding, so your pledge goes directly to supporting our further development. We prefer to be funded by you, our fans and supporters, rather than by corporate investors. The advantage of this is that we can keep our full creative freedom, allowing us to be as creative as we can be, and to listen to you while making the game.

We have created games before, but Epicinium is our first video game project of this scale. It is about halfway done, and we are confident that we have the skills and drive needed to see this adventure through and deliver a well-rounded game at the end of it.

Please back us and spread the word! With your support we can continue following our passion and create an amazing game!

Thanks! We do plan on releasing for mobile, but we wanted to release on PC first since that is the platform we had the most experience with. Mobile will be a stretch goal.

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Hi folks! The last thing we did in August was release version 0.28.2. This update brings the Discord Rich Presence integration that we talked about in the previous post. Epicinium will now show up next to your name in Discord while you're playing it, allowing your friends to see what game mode you're playing and on what map. If you're looking for opponents, you can also invite others to join your lobby by posting an invite in Discord chat.

This works in any Discord chat, but in particular in the looking-for-game channel of the Epicinium server.

This version also has a ton of UI improvements, such as the new icons that are used consistently between the order context menu, the order guides and the order list.

We've also been tinkering with the animations. You can now speed up animations by holding the left mouse button, or pause temporarily by holding down the right mouse button. We've also made the impact animations easier to read.

Let us know what you think!

After being occupied for a couple of weeks by the founding of our cooperative (A Bunch of Hacks), we have turned our focus back on improving Epicinium and today we released beta version 0.25.0. This update introduces weekly challenges, new dust and grass particles, and an easier way to provide feedback directly from within the game to our STOMT page.

Starting this week, a new challenge will appear in the game every one or two weeks. Completing challenges awards you with stars, and you can play a challenge again to try to get a higher score; your best attempt counts. The stars you accumulate over the weeks are added up and displayed next to your name in the multiplayer menu. Challenges are played on special maps against a special AI. Some challenges may have different starting units or rulesets as well. A mission briefing appears at the start of the challenge to tell you what you need to do to earn stars.

For this first challenge, the objective is the same as in any other game of Epicinium: occupy, capture or destroy all enemy City tiles and try to keep as many Grass and Forest tiles intact to get a higher score. If you score at least 1 point at the end of this challenge, you will get 1 star. Scoring at least 25 points gets you 2 stars and scoring at least 40 points gets you 3 star. Instead of starting with two City tiles, you start with three Rifleman units and a Farm tile. This challenge is played on a very small map, so expect global warming to grow out of control really fast. Getting all three stars is meant to be very difficult (it's a challenge after all), but definitely possible.

Let us know what you think, either by commenting here, dropping by our Discord or from within the game using the new feedback form.

During our months of developing Epicinium, we've noticed that we need to continually strike a balance between defying and meeting expectations. Games are an interactive medium. If a game goes against players' expectations at every turn, it becomes inaccessible: players will just become frustrated and stop playing. Especially in a multiplayer-focused game where you're trying to build a community, that's bad. On the other hand, if there's a strong vision behind the game, fulfilling all of the players' expectations will quickly cause your original vision to become buried, and you might end up with Clash of Whatever, part SomeRomanNumeral. We're not sure we've been entirely successful at striking that balance until now - we probably tend to err towards inaccessibility -, but we will illustrate this balance by giving some examples of common player feedback we've gotten, and how we've handled them.

No unit merging

A very common reaction from players who are playing the tutorial is "why can't you merge units?". In Epicinium, players control units on a grid-based map, which consist of one or more figures. You can have a Rifleman unit with three figures, or a triple Rifleman, which might become a double Rifleman if one of the figures is killed in combat. Only one (ground) unit may occupy a single tile at a time. People have the expectation that you can merge these units, for example by moving a unit consisting of one lone Rifleman into a tile occupied by a double Rifleman, thereby combining to a triple Rifleman. This expectation is very natural, and stems from people's knowledge of how in real life, people can combine to form different groups, and perhaps from playing other strategy games where you can merge squads. However, if a player tries this in Epicinium, they are disappointed: the lone Rifleman will promptly stop moving one tile before reaching the other unit. Sorry!

The reason we haven't implemented unit merging originates in how we designed our combat system. A triple Rifleman is much, much stronger than a single Rifleman, definitely more than three times as strong. They have more firepower (shooting three times in one encounter rather than once makes all the difference in a combat system without health bars), and higher survivability (incoming attacks are spread out among the figures, resulting in a much higher chance that none of the figures dies). Triple Rifleman units are basically a reward for the player's patience and endurance; they've managed to grow a City to three power, letting it survive three consecutive nights while resisting the temptation to utilize them for anything else that costs power. By contrast, a single Rifleman is only good for picking off straggler Settlers and doesn't stand a chance when fighting larger forces. Allowing the player to create a triple Rifleman by merging would allow them to create a very strong unit very early in the game, throwing off the investment-reward balance we had intended.

In this case we feel that in order to keep our vision of the game alive, we need to defy this particular player expectation. Nonetheless, it is very useful for us to learn that this expectation exists. Maybe it's a good idea to give this mechanic a try anyway. Maybe it's a design choice stemming from assumptions we had in the beginning that no longer apply today, and it's perfectly possible to implement merging and re-balance the game with some tweaks in other areas. At the same time, just because players expect it doesn't always entail that we should do it. But in that case, at least, we need to do something to address the expectation; explicitly mention the impossibility of merging early in the game, visually subvert the reason people make the assumption in the first place (as Advance Wars does, where squads of however many soldiers are represented on the map by a sprite of a single soldier), or have an in-game logic reason why merging is not allowed.

Selecting units and tiles

An example of where we did see the "errors of our ways", thanks to player feedback, is our selection mechanic. In Epicinium, a maximum of three selectable things can be on the same tile at once: a ground unit, an air unit and buildings. We used to have a system where, wanting to select anything, you would have to left-click anywhere on the tile, a selection menu would pop up and then you would have to click on the corresponding panel. We figured the player would have to do this even when there was only one thing to select, for else the selection menu would come as a surprise whenever it would inevitably come raging into the china shop another time. You would always have to go through this menu before giving any order, which was (and still is) performed though another menu, the order menu, which is brought up by right-clicking the selected unit or building. We quickly found out that players were utterly confused by this system. Still figuring out the controls and already a bit disconcerted by when to left- or right-click, they now had to keep apart two similar-looking menus produced by opposing mouse buttons before even able to give an order, the most basic mechanic in the game! We decided to retire this selection system in favour of the more intuitive figure-based ("click-on-what-you-want-to-select") selection system. (The original system can still be found under Selection Mode: Context Menu in the settings, in case you want to try it out.)

Displaying unit stats

One more example is the tile/unit stat boxes that now grace the left side of the screen. We had long held on to a design philosophy where all the necessary information could be gathered by the player by observing the game world. In fancy terms, this is called "diegetic UI". For example, the health and strength of a unit can be learned by counting its figures, the power of a City by counting its lit-up buildings, thus eliminating the need for extra, space-invading UI elements. However, we recently concluded that pursuing diegetic UI exclusively is just not desirable for a pixel-art strategy game. Eventually we would run out of ways to display new information. A unit's movement speed; the color of the figures' boots? The number of firing volleys in one encounter; the number of medals of their uniform? It would quickly become very cluttered visually, and players wouldn't know where to look for these things anyway. A player who filled in our feedback form rightfully claimed that "having information is key in any strategy". He desired access to all statistical details in the game. We agreed and added the stat boxes.

Rearranging orders

Sometimes it is not a matter of expectation versus vision, but just a matter of time. One feature that we have had requested multiple times is the ability to rearrange the orders on the order list, and to quickly revoke orders or stop old orders. This is something we intended to add since the game's original conception, but there was always something else a little higher on the priority list. Additionally, we feared that it would take a lot of engineering work to rewrite our delicate little interface engine to be able to handle elements being dragged around at the whims of The Player. We felt that all that work might not be worth it if the player can achieve the same goal without it; orders could already be rearranged by assigning them again in a different sequence. This mentality changed when we realized not enough players were actively thinking about the sequence in which they gave their orders; a lot of players were not even aware of its significance. That's why you can now drag around orders at will. Hooray!

Most importantly, you can now rearrange orders in the new order list; that is, within the list of new orders that you have given in the current planning phase. You are not able to rearrange old orders, but you can drag old orders to the new order list to make sure they are executed after other ones. We also added little blue buttons; clicking the box-shaped button on an old order issues an Stop order that negates it, whereas clicking the x-shaped button on a new order removes it from the order list.

To help new players understand the importance of the order list, we have also disabled fog of war by default for human players. This makes it clear that the players alternate while executing their orders. It also makes it easier to see enemy attacks coming and respond in time, which might require rearranging some orders. AI opponents do not have global vision by default, and for competitive matches the fog of war can be reenabled. Because it is no longer hidden knowledge which player goes first during the action phase, we have made this first player advantage visible to all players; the player colors indicate who goes first and who goes second, and this information is updated at the start of each planning phase.

We do worry that the UI has become somewhat too large over time - both in on-screen size and in complexity -, so we may be making further changes in the future. Let us know what you think.

In today's devlog, we will talk about how familiar symbolism and weighted pauses can help convey information about game mechanics and we will showcase the title screen music for Epicinium.

Visual feedback

While originally prototyping Epicinium, we made a point of avoiding certain traditional mechanics like HP bars and instead designed everything to be mathematically discrete, almost like a board game. Although we're relatively pleased with how the combat system and damage model allow experienced players to strategize without having to crunch numbers, we have to be careful about the line between innovative and complicated.

As a specific example, whenever a unit moves away from an enemy unit it is subject to an 'attack of opportunity' where the enemies fire upon it as it moves. Because the unit's figures are actively moving around the screen, it is hard to also pay attention to where it is being shot from and sometimes you don't even realize until you notice your unit is gone. It doesn't help that the figures might have already reached their destination by the time the shots connect.

To better communicate what is happening, units now stop moving when an attack of opportunity takes place, and the enemies that have been triggered to attack are highlighted with a red exclamation mark as they take aim. Similarly, when a unit uses its Focus ability, friendly units next to the target also have an exclamation mark pop up to indicate that they will join in on the action.

Once this train of thought took off, we realized we could use this same approach to solve another problem: players sometimes forget about units that they've built in an earlier turn and it is easy to overlook a small settler when it is surrounded by buildings. During the planning phase, units without any orders now have a question mark appear over their head to draw your eye towards them. Once you click on the unit, the question mark disappears. It also adds a little character to the game at a time where nothing else is actively happening.

Title screen music

One of the most requested features for Epicinium is music. We plan to have a dynamic system for gameplay music that allows us to blend in and out different layers depending on the context. This would make it possible to change the music to reflect the content of the gameplay; for example if you are just building and farming the music would be more relaxing, whereas tanks shelling cities would be accompanied by a more bombastic soundtrack. This will take a while to add to the game, so we'll tell you more about it in the future.

For now, we have focussed on finding a sound that reflects the main themes of Epicinium, and this has resulted in the music that plays on the title screen. We went with a mix between militaristic drums and chiptune synthesizers to create something that hopefully evokes a bit of apocalyptic dread. Take a listen!

Version 0.17.0

Both the visual feedback improvements and the title screen music have been added in version 0.17.0, which was released yesterday. Due to a bug in the patcher, Windows users that have already played before may need to download the package manually and extract the contents into their game folder. If you use the itch desktop application, you can just update the game normally.

Patching woes

When we added functionality to have the patcher itself be patchable as well, we wisely decided that the game should patch the patcher before the patcher would patch the game. Not so wisely, we forgot to add a negation somewhere and instead the game and the patcher both tried to patch themselves. We develop in Linux where this is apparently allowed, but in Windows the game and the patcher fail to update. Before each release we have a pre-flight check where we also check to see if the Windows client can patch itself, but ironically these checks were passed because the game failed to patch the patcher; the old patcher was still able to patch the game and everything seemed fine, but new players started with a patcher that was useless. Even worse, we now have a chicken-and-egg problem where we cannot patch the game because the patcher is broken and we cannot fix the patcher because the game only patches itself.

Oops.

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Hi folks! We just released version 0.16.1 today, featuring a settings menu and memory usage optimizations.

These past few weeks we've been hard at work to squelch some crashes and disconnects that seem to plague the game at the moment. We've talked with our webhosting provider, and they have moved us to a different setup that will hopefully get rid of the TCP disconnection issues. We've also reduced the RAM usage of the game by roughly 75%, so this should help prevent crashes related to high memory. If you are still crashes or disconnects in version 0.16.1, please let us know!

Lastly, there's another online playtest session later today (20:00 GMT). As our community continues to grow these sessions are getting more and more fun, so be sure to pop by!

Thanks! That was our design goal when we started this. Hopefully you'll enjoy how it plays out in game as well.

Hi! The game is controlled with the mouse. There are some keyboard shortcuts but not enough to play the game. Why does the mouse not work? Is the cursor position wrong? Or does it not move at all?

On a hunch, could you try running the game from the terminal using

SDL_VIDEO_X11_DGAMOUSE=0 ./epicinium

from the directory that the binary named "epicinium" is in? If that fixes it, we can add that to the next version.

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Hey Amewingcat, co-developer of Epicinium here. The game does not have any hard time limit so it was not intentional. I think it was a bug where the server just stops receiving packets which means the game cannot continue. We're still working on it, but we didn't know it could also happen in the middle of a game. Thanks!