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Author Topic: Concealed Intent  (Read 3475 times)
jarrah
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« on: February 08, 2015, 11:25:24 pm »


Concealed Intent is a turn-based game of tactical space combat. Players control their ships in a completely 3D world - hunting down their enemies, just as they are being hunted themselves! In Concealed Intent you know your enemies are out there, but not exactly where, or even what they are. The fun comes from out-thinking your opponent rather than any test of reaction speed.


The core gameplay mechanic is stealth. But how can you be stealthy in space? Well, space is big and empty. Finding something can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. On the other hand, there is nowhere for the needle to hide - to stay concealed it needs to fade into the background as much as possible. Nearly anything a ship does will signal its presence and increase the ability of those around to detect it. A big ship may blot out stars as it passes. Heat from engines can be detected against the cold of the void. Lasers can be traced back to their origin. Eventually as detection increases, a firing solution can be calculated so that a beam of coherent light a few millimetres in diameter can cross thousands of kilometres to strike an evasive enemy - hidden no longer!

To defeat your enemies you need to devise a range of strategies to gain enough information to successfully shoot at them. All the while they are trying to do the same to you. Various equipment is available to help both sides, including sensors, countermeasures and drones. There will be a single-player campaign, instant procedural skirmishes and online multiplayer.

Background

I'm Charles. Just over 2 years ago I moved to Kuala Lumpur (from London) and decided to create a computer game after many years as a contract software developer. With a few missteps along the way (including a complete restart about 18 months ago), that game is now Concealed Intent and it is nearing completion. Time to let people know about it. If the images remind you of Homeworld or Frozen Synapse then good, those games were definitely influences.

Inventory
  • Me
  • Unity3D
  • A local 2D artist
  • tea

Plan
Currently working on making the game look prettier in preparation for a Greenlight campaign. Then it is back to finishing the single player campaign, which seems to be mostly work on the tutorial! Then expanding out the current proof-of-concept online system to something generally useful. Balancing is always ongoing. Then...

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« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 07:28:16 pm by jarrah » Logged
jarrah
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2015, 08:04:28 pm »

I'm currently working on making pretty skyboxes for the game. I found the Spacescape tool (and a nice tutorial) and so far it seems to work quite well. Here is my first attempt at creating a skybox.


It seems that the image displayed in the Spacescape preview image and the final image in game can look a little different. Even exporting at maximum resolution (4096px, and importing into Unity at the same resolution), some details can look a little fuzzy. The problem seems to be worst with the fine detail work in ridged nebulae. A pity as in the preview images these look exceedingly cool. So keeping dither, lacunarity & octaves at low values smooths out the nebula and it looks ok in-game. Some more experimentation is required (and some higher quality billboards).

If anyone has any advice on how to use this tool, please let me know!
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jarrah
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2015, 04:06:16 am »

"The life of an indie dev is always INTENSE!"

-- Apologies to Alex Cox

Alright, not quite as intense as the life of a repo man, but still never boring. I'm always learning something new. In the past week I have been a copywriter, project manager (for outsourced art), marketer, tester, film editor, and even amateur artist. Note, for many days now I haven't been a programmer, despite that being my primary skillset.

This has all been because of my "big nail" development process for Concealed Intent. This basically means that I focus on the main issue of the moment, whatever it is. As the sole dev on this project, my attention can only be on one item at a time. Earlier this month that was the tutorial (again). For the last week or so, the big nail has been preparing for a Steam Greenlight campaign. I commissioned work on a logo (seen at the top of this blog). Worked on improved skyboxes. Downloaded the trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro and created my first trailer.

That last item took some time. The resulting

. Not bad for a first attempt, I think so anyway.

Then came my first animated gif. That wasn't so successful, but the second was good enough to use as an icon.


With all the artwork complete, it was time to complete a Greenlight submission. I did that about 6 hours ago. Now I am a professional reload button clicker. Seriously, I have clicked reload every few minutes since it went live. It took about 10 minutes before anyone voted for it - a nervous time. It is currently on 41 "yes" votes.

The idea that 41 people (well actually 40, because I voted for myself) think Concealed Intent is a game worth seeing on Steam is utterly amazing to me. I feel a little burst of apprehension whenever I put up something about the game. I try to do this regularly now to help overcome any concerns. It works, but seeing (currently) 42 people voting for it works even better! Now I'm super motivated - I will finish!  

Next up is more work on the tutorial. Then I'm looking forward to getting back to some coding with gameplay balancing, online work and finishing a first draft of all the campaign missions.

Which is all a long winded way of saying, Concealed Intent is on Greenlight - vote for it here!
« Last Edit: February 18, 2015, 07:48:43 pm by jarrah » Logged
jarrah
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2015, 07:11:07 pm »

There have been a few questions on how Concealed Intent actually plays. What better way to answer such a question than with a Let's Play video! So I create my first developer playthrough video and put it on

.

It is an honest portrayal of the game as it stands, the only "fix" is I amped up all sensors so enemies would be detected quicker (thus making the game a bit faster than normal). Otherwise, this is how Concealed Intent looks and feels.

It is surprising hard to do this well. Just talking for 10 minutes straight was hard enough! I have a new found appreciation for the big Let's Players.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2015, 08:08:36 pm by jarrah » Logged
jarrah
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2015, 08:50:28 pm »

I'm back from GDC now (I blogged some thoughts here) and it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last did any serious coding. So I'm leaving the marketing and Greenlight stuff for a while to focus on moving the game forward. I feel relief already at the thought of getting back to what I know best.

It always helps to have a goal and a task list when starting a block of work like this. My goal is to create a version of Concealed Intent that is ready to send out to people for testing as an early alpha demo. I hope to have this done by the end of the month (or very soon afterwards). The task list is:

  • Carry over hull damage between missions - done
  • Targetting not cancelling properly - done
  • Be able to change teams during play - done, 26th March
  • Add disruptors (weapons that deactivate or take control of drones) - done, 26th March
  • In-game online feedback forms - done, 26th March
  • Avoid HUD overlaps - done, 9th April
  • End of mission screen improvements - done, 9th April
  • Rename noise to signature - done, 9th April
  • Add test version messages - done, 9th April
  • Various graphical niceties - done, 9th April
  • Fix all known bugs (at present there are 2, more yet to be found no doubt) - done, 9th April
  • Continue work on iteratively improving the missions, AI, balance & tutorial - Neverending!

Notably absent from this list is online play. That will just have to wait. I have a proof-of-concept online implementation, so I know I can do it. It will just take too much time right now, for very few players. Best to get the basic experience down first.

Changing teams and feedback will be the two largest items by far. I started work on changing teams this morning and now have problems with the way the code is structured. It will take a few days just to make the code flexible enough to handle a ship switching from Enemy to Player in the middle of a turn. But I'm looking forward to spending my time in an IDE again!
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 05:41:36 pm by jarrah » Logged
jarrah
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2015, 01:53:11 am »

I'm still working through my demo list, but most of the big tasks are done now (other than the constant effort on balancing). As I have to leave town for a few days at the beginning of April, I now hope to send out my early alpha test version in the 2nd week of April.

One of the tasks completed is the creation of an in-game online feedback form. This is how it looks:


This form is vital for my testing. Previously when I sent out copies of the game for people to play, feedback was near non-existent. Hopefully this new in-game system will work much better as it is far easier than before. The work is based heavily on Subnautica's feedback system as presented at GDC (slide and example code here). Their idea of using emoticons as the submit button is just brilliant. Here are some other tidbits I picked up looking at their system and designing my own:

  • Ensure there is a quick-key to jump straight to the feedback screen from anywhere within the game.
  • Collect minimal information from the player.
  • Make as much of what is collected optional.
  • Add extra game information behind the scenes.
  • But don’t send anything personal or identifying!
  • Have a back-end system to handle the feedback.
  • Think about rewarding the player for leaving feedback.
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jarrah
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 05:56:35 pm »

After a week away for a numerically significant birthday (as a gift), I am back to work. Every time I stop work for more than a day or two it takes me another day just to get going again. However, this project is taking so long, I think occasional breaks are required. The lesson is: create smaller games or work in larger teams!

I have completed all the extra features planned for the alpha test release, and all the known bugs are fixed. Now it is time to find some more! I will spend a couple of days playing through the game looking for annoyances and bugs. Improving the missions and balance will also be a goal - but one that never ends. If no showstopper issues arise I'll send it out to the mailing list Monday. I'm nervous already.

Now for the obligatory screenshot. Below is the first draft of an end-of-mission screen in Concealed Intent. Each stripe represents a level of success.

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jarrah
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2015, 07:54:49 pm »

First published at the Jarrah Technology blog

Time for another update on Concealed Intent. The latest news is that I just finished spending a week to allow games to be saved and then replayed. It works very nicely. The main benefit of this (apart from being cool:) is that when people leave online feedback they also leave the log of their last played mission, which I can now review to see what they were seeing at the time. Of course, while all this mucking about in JSON serialization and the gameplay engine was great fun and useful, it does not help get the game better noticed or greenlit.

Marketing is now something constantly in the back of my mind. "Will this make a nice screenshot for Twitter?" "Can I blog about this on Gamasutra?" "What needs to be done before I can release a demo version?" As of today I am 40% of the way to the top100 on Greenlight and the pace of yes votes has greatly slowed. I'm hoping that a demo version and accompanying media push will improve that situation. In the meantime, I work on the occasional graphical nicety in order to keep up a trickle of screenshots/updates and thus a corresponding trickle of votes. Thus, after the week of engine work, I spent an afternoon playing around with movement trails. The resulting screenshot is below.


Last week an early demo copy of Concealed Intent was sent out to mailing list subscribers. So far there has been little feedback, but that has always been my experience with such things. One person has said that vertical movement is difficult to understand - an issue that is already on my todo list as a "maybe", so it will probably become a "definite" now. My todo list is full of tasks leading to make a better early access demo. As the the demo improves it will be distributed through more popular channels (Greenlight, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, IndieDb, Reddit, etc). The first task on this list is completing the first draft of the single-player campaign, as this will determine if any more changes to general gameplay are required. Then work on balance and AI. Then some GUI improvements like the vertical movement issue, plus a way of identifying ships without plans; direction pointers to off-screen ships; and, a better loadout screen. After that, I don't know, it depends on how feedback for the demo goes.

Anyway back to work!
« Last Edit: May 23, 2015, 03:47:03 am by jarrah » Logged
jarrah
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2015, 08:22:26 pm »

Still working through issues and improving the single-player campaign before widening the circle of paytesters. Hopefully I'll be posting it here in a couple of weeks. 

One of the difficulties in creating Concealed Intent is how to handle 3D. Often when showing the game to people, the ability to fly your ship up and down seems the hardest to understand. The plan was to copy Homeworld’s movement and waypoint selection system, but early comments from the latest round of testers suggested that was not enough. So after a short discussion on reddit’s /r/gamedev, I decided to more shamelessly copy Homeworld 2’s movement system. The idea being to more strongly signal perspective in the game and easier controls.

A disc showing the horizontal plane now appears when selecting waypoints. The marker displaying the height above/below the horizontal is now much clearer. Also the player can start moving up down by holding down the right mouse button (as well as the previous method of holding down a CTRL key). The amount of movement up/down is now directly linked to mouse movement rather than a fancy (and fragile) 3D geometry calculation. Finally once wayponts have been set, it is now possible to click and drag the last waypoint to a new position (an idea given by a tester through the feedback system!).

You can see the result in this

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jarrah
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2015, 03:47:46 am »

Concealed Intent has been greenlit!

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jarrah
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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2015, 10:15:32 pm »

Another update. Progress on Concealed Intent always takes longer than expected. One of the (many) things I didn't realise when I started this project is how much rework is required! There is no game mechanic or control that has not been rewritten at least twice, most far more often. The UI has similarly been iterated on many times (with at least one more pass to come). The last week has been spent on another of these rework tasks - updating to Unity5. The result is performance is much improved and the game looks better too.

So I'm starting to widen the testing for the pre-alpha version. You can download and try out the game in its current (early) state from the links below. I'm interested to hear any feedback you have!



Next up are 4 major tasks (plus lots of minor tasks and bugs as they emerge):
  • Steamworks integration
  • Online play
  • UI update (remove log?, handle different screen sizes better, ...)
  • Another pass over the missions & AI

After then I think it will be time to go into Early Access.
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Connor
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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2015, 12:26:59 am »

I love how yo had tea as an asset both because your english and because i believe sierra leone is in africa, what has a pretty large spice trade (might not be true, could be thinking of india) also, before the ebola outbreak my dad was working in sierra leone as a humanitarian building schools for poor kids, so its awesome to see someone from there. Tell me, do you all use that school in the edge of the slums anyways?


Thanks!
-cj
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Firearrow games
www.firearrowgames.net

blitzkampfer:
https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=52009.msg1280646#msg1280646

too bad eggybooms ents are actually men in paper mache suits and they NEED to be agile
Connor
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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2015, 12:28:02 am »

Oops misread kuala lampur as sierra leone, my bad.
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Firearrow games
www.firearrowgames.net

blitzkampfer:
https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=52009.msg1280646#msg1280646

too bad eggybooms ents are actually men in paper mache suits and they NEED to be agile
jarrah
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« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2015, 03:01:44 am »

You confused me there for a bit Smiley

Yep, I'm in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, never been to Sierra Leone, sorry.

The tea comment was an reference to the old The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy interactive fiction game which I was playing on the web for the sake of nostalgia when I started this devblog.
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jarrah
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2015, 08:39:13 pm »

Concealed Intent continues to improve, so it is time to start thinking about how this is going to end...

Step 1: Steam Early Access in September
Step 2: Huh?
Step 3: Profit!!!

Between now and Early access there will be 3 more alpha releases:
  • 31st July – v0.9.11: Rework some parts of GUI, like the stats panel and loadout screens.
  • 14th August – v0.9.12: 1v1 online play and supporting screens.
  • 28th August – v0.9.13: Steam integration, 3 extra missions and some AI rework.

As always the alpha releases are available for download at https://www.dropbox.com/…/3yu64sk…/AABcCp92zCI4hiTmjpRo2wV1a
Please take a look at the alpha version if you can, and please leave feedback too (click ‘J’ at anytime in the game).

More details at : http://www.jarrahtechnology.com/…/07/18/The-Best-Laid-Plans/
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jarrah
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2015, 01:46:26 am »

So in my last post (some time ago!) I plotted out a path to finishing (or at least Steam Early Access). Who spotted the obvious error in the plan? If you said “two weeks to finish an online server is a little ambitious”, then congratulations you are absolutely correct.

It is now a fortnight past when I hoped to have such a server completed, and it is only just usable. Players can register, search for duels, and play a game. They can even concede the game if they wish. There are no outstanding bugs, but there is still more to do. The last "must do" item is adding timers to the turns so a player can't just abandon a game leaving their opponent hanging. Other than that there are a few things I should add, but can wait until later, including: a coop mode; bots if no player opponents are available; player ranking systems with better match-making; Steam user auto-registration; and, many performance improvements (at the moment my home PC can probably support about a hundred simultaneous games).


Onward!
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jarrah
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« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2015, 07:27:36 pm »

Again it has been a while... some early September playtests went badly, so the rest of that month was spent working and reworking the UI & controls (with the help of a couple more playtests). I may be a sole developer, but I can still crunch myself - it has been a hard couple of months. Although I think the game is much better and easier to understand than before!

Want to see for yourself? A demo version is available at: https://www.dropbox.com/…/3yu64sk…/AABcCp92zCI4hiTmjpRo2wV1a - let me know what you think. This will probably be the last demo version.

Next up is to get a working beta on Steam (which means I need to update the trailer), plus more work on missions/AI/balance as always!
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jarrah
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« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2015, 06:20:34 pm »

It's alive. I mean it is live.

Thursday morning I set Concealed Intent to "published" on Steam Early Access. As the page informing me of success suggested: "insert confetti here". If you go to the Steam Store page it is possible to pay actual real money for it. It feels very weird that people might do so (not many though at the moment Smiley.

Of course, the game is not finished. Not by a long way. This is more of a start than an end. Hopefully the feedback more players will provide will help make the game better. Already I have seen a number of good suggestions (from prerelease copies) - and no bugs yet!

There are four things I really want to get done before a full release (but Steam says not to promise anything, so these are not promises!):

 * 4 extra single-player campaign missions
 * Steam achievements
 * A focus point for online duels to prevent two stealth players never finding each other
 * Being able to challenge your Steam friends to a game with custom time limits, rather than random match-making with whomever is online, which is probably no one Sad

After those four I'll hopefully have time to add more features as prioritised by the community.

There have also been a couple of YouTube Let's Play videos posted.
 *

(English) - first 5 missions, although I think his failures are edited out as he plays very well
 *

 (Deutsch|German) - just tutorial and first two introductory missions

Speaking of YouTube and prerelease copies. I'm getting a ton of key requests (and other game-related mail): 15-20 each day. On average I refuse 80-90%. Usually because: a large number of keys are requested; the email address is unverifiable; the requester has no videos in the last month; I don't see any similar games reviewed; or, they have very few views (I look for around 80-100+ views on videos a few weeks old). I'm not sure if any of this is normal, but in the Steam discussion groups many gamedevs seem regretful of profligate key giveaways. However, I'm still checking all of them taking 5-10 minutes each.

That adds up. With all the other little unexpected release tasks, the time allotted to development has greatly suffered in the last week. I've probably only managed the equivalent of two previous workdays progress over the last 8 days.

Oh, and one last pro tip. Upload your game music to YouTube as private videos well before your release date, to ensure people without any rights haven't somehow managed to "claim" your music! This happened to me and wrecked my weekend as YouTuber's will not post videos of games so encumbered. Lucky, it is all fixed now and the copyright is back where it belongs.

Now back to emails and hopefully some dev work too. And definitely not hitting refresh button on the sales report, no, no, no...
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jarrah
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« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2015, 03:03:49 am »

Concealed Intent is 33% off as part of the Steam Winter sale until the 4th January.

It has been just over a month since Concealed Intent's release onto Steam Early Access. Sales have been lower than expected, but then my marketing has been lacking in effort more than expected too, so there is no basis for complaint. My time instead has been spent on improving the game - with definite results. The initial EA release was version 0.9.16. Today I released 0.9.20. Tons of (minor) bugs are fixed and many cosmetic improvements made. Furthermore, on entering EA, there were 4 features that needed to be completed before a full release: 4 new missions; Steam Achievements; a focus point for online duels; and, being able to challenge your friends online.

With the 0.9.20 release, all the original goals for EA are now complete! This release specifically adds the ability to challenge a friend on Steam. Players can also choose the ship type, the map and the time limit for submitting turns (defaults to 7 days, but can range from 30 minutes to 30 days). Hopefully this will fix the previous problems of online match-making and a few duels will get started. It is also a large change to the underlying code base - it has been a busy month.



Does this mean I'm done and ready for a full release? Definitely not. Apart from the inevitable bug fixes, there are a few more things to be done:

  • Skirmish features - the most requested feature among the community is more detailed skirmishes. So , this will be the major piece of work addressed next. Part of it it will be fairly straightforward, but the implications of those changes to the AI will be the real challenge. The enemies will have to get a lot smarter to handle all the options, at the moment they would just become confused.
  • UI & UX improvements - there are a few inconsistencies and annoyances - these should be ironed out.
  • Performance improvements
  • Missions and tutorial rework (plus balance) - Watching people play suggests that the early missions are still problematic - either too easy or too hard. Need to spend some more time on this.
  • Marketing - really should get going on this task!!!

But all that will have to wait a little, as apart from a few marketing tasks (and assuming the latest release doesn't have a breaking bug) I'm taking the rest of the year off (so that is a week:). My first break since May.
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jarrah
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« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2016, 11:39:58 pm »

Looking at the Concealed Intent plan for Early Access, all the work originally promised (plus a bit more) is complete. Now is the time to work out when to fully release the game.

One thing that has become clear during Early Access is that if a solo game developer tries to do development and marketing at the same time, then both are done poorly. So the current plan is to at some point to declare Concealed Intent ready for release. Then wait between a fortnight and a month, just testing and checking there are no bugs or spelling mistakes (also preparing marketing materials). Then spend a month on just marketing before the actual release. During this two month period no new features will be added to the game, only the smallest changes will be considered and then only if necessary.

The other thing to consider when planning a release date is the Steam Summer Sale. I don't know when it will be this year (yet), but the last two years it has been a fortnight in June. When that event is running any game launch will be swamped and disappear in the hype. Concealed Intent's two week launch window must not overlap with that sale.

Combine all that and if Concealed Intent is to launch before the Steam Summer Sale then I need to stop right now and start the bug checking phase. I don't want to do that. I planned to complete a couple of iterations on the campaign work, but I have only completed one so far. Unfortunately I have been sick (probably the flu) and this has cost me nearly a fortnight's worth of work. Work I still want to complete. So in the end the decision is easy (thanks to being ill), Concealed Intent will be released after the Steam Summer Sale.

So what does that mean? Assuming that the sale is in June, I will consider that the bug check month, and July the marketing month. Thus the aim is to release Concealed Intent in early August. If the sale is in July, then I may push the release back a little. Fingers crossed it is June (and no other problems/issues arise).

On that basis I have until the end of May to continue working on Concealed Intent features. Although I'm not going to be working full-time on the game. Firstly, I'm about to go on a holiday, as my girlfriend has taken to the expanded timeline and corresponding decrease in pressure to declare its time for a break. I agree with her, there is no risk of losing dev momentum at the moment as being sick has sent me back to zero in that regard anyway. After the break I also need to start thinking about what to do after Concealed Intent. So to that end I will taking a week or two out of the plan to create prototypes when possible. That should still leave enough time for two or three Concealed Intent releases. My task list will be:

Ongoing:
  • Bugfixes
  • Campaign improvements
  • Improvements to Skirmish "Hard AI"

Possible New Work:
  • Handle multiple monitors (this is difficult as I only have a single monitor, but it will likely require updating the libraries used by the game and that part can be done in preparation for a proper fix. The update may also help with other reported issues.)
  • Neutral system in skirmishes (like in online games, unknown ships are displayed as neutrals until identified - this will probably be a modifier)
  • Extra objective scenarios in Skirmishes

Unlikely Features (maybe for after release):
  • Linux version
  • Non-Steam non-DRM version
  • Steam turn notifications

So that's the plan. Hopefully I can stick to this one (all the others turned out to be overly optimistic). So I'll be back soon and initially working on another pass of the campaign. Comments welcome!!
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