Space Program Manager celebrates the 49th anniversary of the Moon Landing with a discount!

On July 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. Eastern Time, people across the Earth listened the words of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong: “That’s one small step for man . . . one giant leap for mankind”. These now famous words marked the Apollo 11 mission as one of the most crucial enterprise for modern human history. 

For the first time, human beings walked across the surface of the silent companion of our Planet and the hearts of millions of people watching the event vibrated with an emotion impossible to describe.

Today July 20, 2018, it’s the 49th anniversary of that incredible event and to properly celebrate it we have a special gift for you.

Space Program Manager, the game developed in consultation with Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who took part in the first Moon landing mission and became the second human being to walk on the Moon, is on sale!

A 50% discount is running on our site, while on Steam it will start tomorrow at 6 pm BST. The offer, both on the site and on Steam will end on Monday 23rd (included).

Aggressors – Units Infographics Part II

Today we are releasing our second batch of infographics depicting the units of Aggressors: Ancient Rome!

This time it’s the turn of the real protagonists of the era: the Romans, as well as a mighty empire which was Rome’s most dangerous antagonist for centuries, the Persians.

We are also showcasing the civilian support units as well as the ships you can build in the game. 

 

We’ll be back this Friday for our usual Aggressors’ Friday with a new Dev diary.

You can click on the infographics to zoom them.

 

Armored Brigade Dev Diary #1 – Artificial Intelligence

The Armored Brigade artificial intelligence (AI) is fully dynamic, which means that it can handle any scenario within the game parameters, without a need for any scripting from the scenario designer. This approach has been the basic foundation of the game. I’ve always found the procedurally generated game content fascinating, and that can be seen in the design philosophy of Armored Brigade.

In Armored Brigade, there’s an undefined number of maps, units, environmental conditions, and so on. The system must build a readable representation, process the input and then produce output that creates a credible impression of intelligence that behaves in a realistic, unpredictable and challenging manner. That’s quite a challenge indeed. A “chess AI”, where you have a finite number of possible states, is out of the question. 

Even if warfare of this era can be considered symmetric, the highly lethal long range weapon systems and the great variety of units in the game can make the battles very erratic. 
 
The general rule is “if you can see it, you can kill it”. There are no “front lines”, and in the game it’s common that a unit can hit another unit from the other side of the map. 

 

 

READ THE FULL ENTRY HERE

Aggressors Dev Diary 5 – Home Politics

Throughout human history it has been expected that those accepted as leaders or emperors would be responsible for bringing the country wealth, prestige and prosperity.

I have always felt that country management has been quite underrated in many other strategy games. The reason is simple, micro- and macro-management can be quite tedious, repetitive and in a way ruining the “fun”.
But sidelining country management has, in my opinion, also provided less realistic experiences. We accepted the challenge and came up with a few new game concepts that on one hand keep the economic, military, social and cultural decisions in the hands of the player whilst, on the other hand, complementing the robust and logical game mechanics. All whilst bringing in surprising elements that deepen immersion. Country management should be mostly automated and decisions should be either made actively by the player or he should be alerted in special circumstances to reduce the boring and monotonous tasks.

 

So, what is under the hood of Aggressors‘ country management?

 

Firstly, it is the choice of government system. Different government systems are established in different societies reflecting the local conditions and have a profound effect on the economic, military and social life in the country. It also greatly affects the resource management or, more precisely, the resource production which applies both for mined resources as well as for those generated in cities, such as happiness, knowledge, citizens and influence of the country. And on top of that the morale of your armies also partially depends on the system of government – the soldier needs to know which master he serves!

The player is free to change the government system in the country to suit his plans and current situation but he should be always aware that such a change will ripple through the country leading to both positive and negative reactions.

But the state is not just the emperor! It is the masses of nameless people whose daily work lays the foundations for a stable and powerful state.  

When playing other games, I felt that many underestimate the role the general population plays in the development of the state. This is the reason why I introduced citizens as a special resource from which both the workforce and soldiers are recruited.

Perhaps it is best to explain its unique role with an example. The populace is distributed in the cities which are the main recruitment centers. Building new units means that the city size is reduced as part of the population is taken into army service and at the same time the citizen resource decreases. But the production of other resources that are generated in cities such as knowledge or influence is determined by the city size, i.e. number of citizens. Therefore, once you recruit a new unit, the production of other resources in this city decreases. But supporting a wild population growth is also dangerous as it puts an increasing strain on the state resources as you will need to provide housing, livelihoods and safety for your people. You can regulate the population growth by building new cities, supporting immigration (people tend to move to cities with higher level of happiness) and giving incentives to increase birth rate. This support takes a form of nation-wide and local grants which allows you to “accumulate” citizens in cities where you need them most.

People are therefore one of the most important resources and balancing the population growth with the economic capacity of the state and the need for soldiers and workforce is a task for a real strategist.

 

 

Closely related to Birth rate is also the concept of Migration. The history is full of stories of mass movements of people from regions suffering from war, crop failure or natural disasters.

In the beginning we used migration of people as a random event but as the complexity of the game grew, we decided to make this minor side feature into a full-scale game mechanism in order to reflect the real historical events and natural behavior of people of that time.

When the lives of people are threatened or their livelihoods destroyed, they simply try to find another, better place for their families. They prefer locations nearby within the same region and state but when the situation does not allow it, they can also migrate abroad and so the state can suffer from a sudden outflow of citizens. Different events force people to move to different places. When your people are afraid of the enemy behind the borders, they move to the safer parts of your country. When they struggle with a lack of food and are threatened by starvation in your country, they tend to migrate over the border to more prospering places.

 

 

This actually brings us to yet another factor that affects the life of every single person. Life in the ancient era was not a piece of cake especially for the lower classes. Although the masses were virtually “voiceless”, we know from the historical annals that when a certain tipping point was reached, the angry crowds found their voice and used their great numbers to demand changes in their favor.

Underestimating this great force would be, if not foolhardy, then naïve to say the least. We call this fragile balance between people´s needs and their satisfaction “Happiness”. It is an indicator of the overall mood of the population and is also another special resource.

On the state level we speak about general happiness which is determined by many interlinked factors such as type of government, lack or abundance of resources, size of the army, number of successful military campaigns or the slave trade. All these and other factors together make the general mood within the country.

But naturally a man living in a border city which is currently under attack and a man living on the other side of the state far away from any potential danger, deal with very different life situations and so their level of happiness will differ greatly. Local happiness is therefore affected by more local factors such as army presence in the region, city infrastructure and the living conditions in the city, distance to a border or proximity of the battlefront.

It is needless to say that the internal political strategy is as important as foreign relations. Higher happiness positively affects army morale and cities and units are more resilient to foreign influences. On the other hand, low happiness is reflected in low army morale, higher emigration rate and could potentially lead to revolts or even civil wars.

 

 

Local happiness is also related to another quite original concept – Influence. It was a common practice for states to use subtle force to initiate or steer certain events in neighboring foreign cities in a hope of gaining a foothold in the region.

To allow the player more political action, we created a new resource type called Influence. It represents the prestige the state has abroad and it can be used to incite unrest in foreign cities while persuading the local governs to switch sides. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This way you can expand your sphere of influence without bloodshed even though reciprocal actions might come faster than you would expect. The usage of this resource and the chance of being successful in such actions depends on many factors like distance from the empire, local happiness of that city, attitude of the populace towards the player influencing the city, urban guards protecting it and many others.

But it’s not just the unexpected which makes the game fun. Even though home politics play a major role in the game, the famous figures of ancient history are more celebrated for their political and military deeds. Heroes are born on the battlefields and so we will dedicate the next Dev diary to the long-awaiting battle and war-related game mechanics!

 

Aggressors Dev Diary 4 – Historical Accuracy

We are all big fans and admirers of the ancient era and we wanted this to be visible throughout the whole game. We want the player to relive the highs and lows of the old times with the ancient nations as if they were really there. All the game concepts of Aggressors were designed with the desire to be as close to historical reality as possible.

 

It started with the historical map and initial setup of course. We spent many weeks studying historical sources, maps and chronicles to set up the map as accurately as we could. It was not always easy – some nations didn’t leave any source of information about what kind of life they led, what were they trying to achieve or conqueror even where they were located exactly. We can find only fragmentary information from other nations writing about their enemies or “unknown barbarians behind their borders”. Sometimes it was a bit of a roll of the dice as the sources were often contradictory and we had to pick one.

After long time tweaking the map, we are pretty happy about the result and we could finally move on to an even more difficult part – historical context. We needed to setup the nations and goals in such a way that would draw the players in and made them identify with the nation they lead.

Historical summaries are full of big dreams, ambitions and grand plans. We let ourselves be inspired by these great visionaries and we decided to create a set of unique short-term and mid-term goals for each nation that reflect the aspirations and hopes of ancient heroes.

This was even more difficult than the map setup because we needed to “guess” the potential goals of each of the nation despite the fact that in history they were wiped out by their enemies before they reached any of those goals! Sometimes we could be led by history itself (like for example in the case of the Roman conquest of Sicily), sometimes by historical sources of what specific countries and conquerors aspired to achieve and sometimes by our own point of view and we had to think about “what if” situations.

We named these goals Objectives and they include territorial expansion, military campaigns, economic, cultural or political development, diplomatic relationships and many more. But nothing comes easy in life and neither do rewards for achieving the Objective’s goal. Players need to put some effort and thinking into these side quests to reap the bonuses waiting at their ends.

 

 

We didn‘t want to create these objectives in a way like many other games do – “conquer this and that and you get precisely this amount of resources as a reward”. This doesn’t feel very realistic and thus the feeling of fulfilling the actual goal of a specific country is forever lost.

In Aggressors the player doesn’t know what exactly he needs to do to reach the goal, neither does he know the scope of the potential rewards. The ancient nations worked hard to turntheir plans into reality but events out of their control could shatter their life-long work. Even if they crowned their effort with success, the benefits were not predictable or known in advance. Actually, fulfilling grandiose plans could even bring more problems than profits.

Let’s demonstrate how the Objectives system works with an example – the goal is to build a strong standing army. As a commander of all armed forces you want to have a reliable and formidable army. You start recruiting men into infantry and cavalry units and perhaps even expand your fleet. But the strength of your army is only measurable in comparison with armies of your opponents and you can be sure that they do not waste time and build their armed forces just as you are trying to do the same. So, it cannot be predicted how many units or what unit types you need to achieve the objective. It simply depends on what kind of opponents you have.

And in the same way you cannot predict the effects such actions will have. It might seem like becoming a military superpower can result in small and weak states offering you political alliances as they hope to gain a strong protector and the happiness of your citizens will increase as they will feel safe in their homes. On the other hand, once you really accumulate such a power, people might slowly realize that they don‘t really need such a power anymore and the potential benefit might be close to nothing. Moreover the majority of young and able men are now serving in your army and there simply isn’t enough men to work the fields. All in all, you cannot see the future until it happens and you can only adapt to its ever-changing flow.

But we realize that the player already gets a lot of adrenalin from all the action in the game and so we have hidden a hint in the description of each objective that should guide the player in the right direction. The information is purely textual like the goals in Ancient times and players must follow this hint till they reach the goal. Apart from that, there is a progress bar showing how far the player has gone in achieving the goal and this can also be taken as an indication if he is going the right way.

The setup of these objectives is not fixed from the beginning. Some objectives unlock other objectives depending on the way the alternative history of the game develops so you will always find a number of interesting side quests to fill your days with.

While working on the Objectives we realized that the ancient leaders were quite creative in using their resources and in creating opportunities. Ruling a large nation was never an easy task and to succeed meant that they always had to find a way out of a difficult situation.

All rulers are eventually confronted with situations that require fast and decisive actions, for example acute lack of resources, crisis or dangerously low army morale. History teaches us that in such moments the ruling elite usually tried to find a quick and effective, even if unusual and risky, remedy which in the game is represented by the so called State decisions. They are solutions that can contain dangerous situations and slow the downfall but their success rate and impact is difficult to predict and you will need to take the leap of faith if you decide to use them.

 

 

Take the examples of food distribution in times of a looming famine, organizing games when unrest was stirring in the population or calling tribal meetings when joint action was required. Such actions were not frequently used, rather the opposite. But when the crisis reached its peak and the ruling class was gripped by desperation, they were willing to turn to risky and often expensive solutions.

Nothing is for free and also the State decisions come at a price while their outcomes are not fully predictable even with the textual estimation of potential outcome. It is the choice of the player to choose if he is ready to pay perhaps a high price to buy himself some time to restore the situation in his country.

The State decisions are available only when concrete conditions are fulfilled and only whilst those conditions last. It is only logical, you probably wouldn’t enforce complete obedience of your soldiers by ordering army decimation unless it is the last and only hope you have left to keep your military units fighting.

I think it is good time to slowly dive into one of the most important aspects of the game – country management. It includes aspects like population happiness, migration, birthrate control and influence of adjacent countries on your cities. But this is a subject for our next dev diary…

How is the Panzer Corps Tournament going?

Several months ago the biggest tournament ever for Panzer Corps started. 

It’s a massive event, both in terms of number of players and length. More than 100 wargamers all around the world are taking part, and it is in fact the biggest Slitherine tournament ever.

It’s going to take all of 2018 before a champion emerges… and we’ll know that he’ll be the real, true Panzer Corps master!

 

But let’s take a look at how the tournament is going, shall we?

 

 

71 players have already been eliminated, and the 48 players who are still in mean serious business! Glory and honour to those who have fallen, but our eyes are all on the survivors. Who will be the last man standing?

Want to find out? You can follow the tournament on its official thread!