Automata Empire in Hurricane Relief Bundle

For a limited time, you can get Automata Empire and 49 other games (such as Maia, FJORDS, and Gunmetal Arcadia) in the Hurricane Relief Bundle on itch.io.

We feel for the people who have been displaced by the storms and have the difficult challenge ahead of rebuilding their lives from the wreckage.  100% of the bundle’s proceeds will be donated to these charities serving victims in the US, Haiti, Antigua, and Barbuda:

  • GlobalGiving Hurricane Irma Relief Fund
  • Halo Foundation
  • Partners in Health (Haiti branches)
  • Direct Impact Fund for Hurricanes Harvey & Irma

So far we’ve raised over $8000. I’m sure everyone affected appreciates your support!

2017: Starting Over

In 2012 I decided to try making a videogame for the Xbox 360’s indie arcade.  I missed the AI work I had done in robotics and thought videogames would be a good way to continue that work without having to spend lots of money on robot parts.  While Microsoft ended up announcing the end of XNA framework and the 360’s indie store before I could finish Afterdeath, I had learned enough about making games to officially file Nonadecimal Creative in 2013.

The online storefronts are incredibly competitive so I was very fortunate to sell enough copies of my first game that Nonadecimal earned a small profit in 2014. That trend continued in 2015 and 2016 with the release of my second game, Automata Empire, enabling me to be one of the lucky few who can make videogames full-time without a day job.  I’m extremely grateful to the people who supported me and promoted my work to help me get there.  While my dream was never a career making videogames, I’ve always wanted to work for myself designing systems that benefit other people.  Since 2015 I was able to live that dream.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and a number of complications in my life changed the math.  I recently took a corporate day job again, luckily as a programmer and in a highly scientific environment too.  At the start of 2017, I also signed on to work with my friend on his cyberpunk FPS, Black Ice.  The end goal for Nonadecimal has always been to develop a procedural narrative engine that can generate stories that adapt to the player’s choices and actions in a meaningful and intuitive way.  Through my contract for Black Ice I’ll be able to focus specifically on that goal, developing a simple story and mission generator for the game that I can expand for future projects.  Since the rest of the game is already heavily developed, I don’t have to worry about programming the basic foundation of a game like I’ve had to with my own games.  That way I can focus on the things I enjoy: writing the game’s story, creating more sophisticated generators, and developing strategic swarm behaviors and group strategies for the game’s running, leaping, and flying enemies.

 

I don’t know yet what this means for Souls & Accounting, the demon corporate management game I’d been prototyping with the hope of releasing before the 2018 United States elections to remind people of corporate influence and encourage them to vote.  For now I’ll continue to take things one day and month at a time until I have a better sense of what comes next in my life.  I appreciate all of your support and will do my best to start posting and tweeting more frequent updates about the interesting work I’m doing for Black Ice.

 

Social Justice Warriors in A Good Bundle

This week, Social Justice Warriors is in A Good Bundle on itch.io to support the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. You can get up to 151 indie games for just $20 and 100% of the proceeds will be split evenly between the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

If you buy the $20 tier you get 173 DRM-free indie games worth $519, making this a ridiculously good value. You get popular titles such as:

And of course Nonadecimal’s own Social Justice Warriors. You have until November 29th to grab this deal, so check out the bundle page on itch! With everyone’s support, we’ve already raised almost $100,000!!

 

Update: Thanks everybody! We raised $161,000 with this bundle!

Automata Update #4: Multiplayer, Stats, Leaderboards

Automata Empire’s online multiplayer is here!

You can now play 2-4 player matches against your friends around the world, proving yourself a master strategist. Or form an alliance to drive back the undead hordes on Migration and unlock a rare cooperative achievement. Show off your skills on Steam’s global leaderboards. Plus the newly added stats page tracks your progress and reveals the state of the ongoing rivalry between the Red and Purple factions (sorry Orange).

It took a little longer than originally planned but multiplayer wouldn’t have been possible without all the extra features, performance improvements, and bug fixes released in updates 1-3 over the last few months. I challenged myself to achieve a lot of new things with this game: gamified cellular automata, AI that can play an RTS competitively, online multiplayer and leaderboards. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with Automata Empire. If you agree, please leave us a positive Steam review. Thank you!

And I hope that 3 of you will help me defeat all the undead so I can unlock that brand new achievement. As an added incentive, the game is going to be 25% off all week to celebrate the multiplayer launch. Tell your friends!

Here’s the full patch notes for this update:
  • added online multiplayer with multiple region servers
  • added Stats page to display past gameplay performance
  • added online leaderboards for multiplayer high scores
  • added 2 new Steam achievements for cooperatively eliminating the undead on Migration and for beating the game’s developer in multiplayer
  • more performance improvements
  • monsters now wear monocles properly in the postgame awards
  • fixed construction timer bugs
  • normalized the length of turns in singleplayer and multiplayer
  • fixed bug that caused undead to arm themselves faster than they should
  • fixed issues with long names in postgame awards
  • fixed bug that caused buildings to destroy when picking up a flag in CTF
  • fixed several bugs that caused game to freeze in CTF

Automata Empire Multiplayer Beta

The multiplayer beta is here! Now you can play 2-4 player games against your Steam friends around the world with online multiplayer.

Since this was my first time adding multiplayer to a game, it’s taken some time to thoroughly test everything and fix all the bugs. For that reason, I’m doing a brief beta period to stress test the system and make sure nobody encounters any bugs or connection problems that I didn’t encounter in my own testing.

To opt in to the beta, follow these steps:
  1. To participate, right-click on Automata Empire in your steam library.
  2. Go to Properties.
  3. In Properties, click the Betas tab.
  4. From the dropdown menu, select “multiplayer – multiplayer beta”. No code is required.
  5. In your Steam library, the game’s name should now display as “Automata Empire [multiplayer]”.
  6. After the game updates on Steam, you will now be able to enter the multiplayer lobby on the main menu.

The online multiplayer lobbies are divided into global regions. If there aren’t any players connected to the same region as you, you can try selecting other regions from the dropdown menu. You can also use the Multiplayer subforum here on Steam to schedule matches with other players. You also have the option to create private matches that only your Steam friends can join.

If nobody reports any issues with multiplayer during this weekend beta, then there should be another announcement coming next week about the full multiplayer release (and a 25% off sale!)

Thank you all for your patience!

Automata Update #3: Patches and Performance

In the past few weeks, I quietly patched Automata Empire several times so that everyone could benefit from things I’ve fixed while working on multiplayer. Many of these changes make multiplayer more fair by eliminating slowdowns and timing issues for people with slower computers, but it also reduces lag in singleplayer. I still have to tackle the Steam friends matchmaking functionality, but multiplayer should be live in Update #4 this month.

Here’s what’s changed:
  • fixed several bugs that caused game to freeze
  • fixed building construction/destruction timer bugs
  • clicking a sidebar button no longer constructs a building underneath when your monsters are present
  • remade Game Over menus to prevent bugs when spectating after a multiplayer loss
  • fixed bug that occasionally prevented player from building on valid locations
  • significant improvements to FPS again! (~60FPS)
  • adjusted overpopulation thresholds
  • fixed another bug that allowed players to destroy their own flag capture zone in CTF
  • improved AI’s responsiveness to human threats
  • fixed bug preventing AI from building walls on the NE corner of their bases
  • AI generally builds more walls now
  • improved AI’s flag return capabilities in CTF
  • fixed bug that caused lower post-game achievement scores
  • fixed bug when pressing ESC in Game Over menus
  • monsters no longer talk when Purple is selected in Autoplay
  • fixed a memory leak

edit: On August 5th, I also patched one more time to fix a brand new bug that sometimes caused construction to stall on certain buildings.

edit: On August 11th, patched again to fix a rare bug where buildings started teleporting around the map. Also fixed some missing images in the How To Play guides.

Automata Update #2: AI and Speed Boosts

I’m happy to finally announce that the second major update to Automata Empire is live!

While I originally intended to complete this update within a few weeks, it took 2 months. The update ended up being particularly large because of the scope of the changes I made to the enemy’s AI, making it much more strategic while also making Hard difficulty harder and Easy difficulty easier. It took 2 complete rewrites of the AI code to get it right. I’ll explain in more detail at the bottom of this post. I also spent the last several weeks doing major performance overhauls to eliminate lag when there are thousands of monsters moving around the screen, which will be especially important for multiplayer.

Here’s what’s new in this update:

  • added a fourth “Challenging” difficulty option
  • improved difficulty scaling so Easy is easier and Hard is harder
  • AI is more strategic about achieving primary objectives in each game type
  • AI uses A* path planning to build more intelligent road routes
  • AI is capable of rebuilding missing or destroyed roads
  • AI builds defensive walls around its taverns, castles, and flags
  • AI counterattacks nearby threats to its bases
  • AI stops moving units out of a tavern if its population gets too low
  • AI can reinforce underpopulated taverns
  • AI chooses better locations for taverns, catapults, armorers, and arsenals
  • undead spawn rate increases with game difficulty
  • adjusted rules for monsters’ death by overpopulation so it happens less frequently
  • made camera scrolling smoother
  • added 50 new monster voice clips
  • added sound effects for mouse clicks and building placement/construction
  • achievement for exclusively controlling all 3 zones in King of the Plateau now awarded correctly
  • fixed bug where monsters announced when enemy castles were under attack too
  • players can no longer destroy their own flag capture zones in Capture the Flag
  • catapulting monsters into an enemy catapult now deals it double damage too
  • improved level load times
  • improved the precision of each turn’s duration
  • many, many framerate and memory optimizations to reduce lag
  • game no longer uses gigabytes of memory if left running for hours
  • fixed several rare bugs that caused game to freeze or crash

Multiplayer

Now that the singleplayer AI is much smarter, the game runs much smoother, and my replacement computer is built, I’m finally free to finish multiplayer. Based on the feedback I was getting from players, these issues seemed more important to fix before releasing multiplayer, especially streamlining the game’s performance. I’ll need a few days to catch up with personal responsibilities that I’ve been ignoring since the game launched, but then I’ll be fully committed to completing multiplayer and further performance improvements. A lot of the remaining work is in the user interface: letting people play with their Steam friends, giving people control over who can join the match, adding error messages for every conceivable connection problem, handling when players leave matches or get disconnected from the game, and making sure the server list scrolls and updates properly when there are lots of open games. I don’t know how long this will take so I can’t promise a specific completion date yet. Plus, after my computer fire before launch and a 7000 acre wildfire came within a few miles of my apartment this month, I’m wary of more unscheduled misfortunes in the future.

AI: Behind the Scenes

For those who are interested in a behind the scenes look at the game development process, I wanted to go into further detail on the story of the game’s AI. While I was working on multiplayer a week before the game launched, I realized I needed to add construction timers for the buildings to compensate for the amount of time it takes to send that info to another player’s computer. Previously, you’d click on the screen to build a tavern and it would instantly appear fully built, immediately killing 6 monsters for its cost. But in multiplayer, it might build on Day 35 on your computer and Day 36 on the other player’s computer. In a normal RTS, this isn’t a huge problem. But in a deterministic cellular automata simulation, if even one monster turns left instead of right it creates a massive butterfly effect of changes between the two players’ games over time. We realized this during testing when we both started gloating about our victory in a 1v1 multiplayer match. Our game worlds had diverged in a way that allowed us both to win on our own computers.

The solution was to add a construction timer to delay when a building was placed on the grid, allowing time to synchronize it on each computer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to implement the construction timer until 2 days before the game’s scheduled launch date. While I got it working in time, the AI was designed with the expectation that every building it placed would build immediately. With the delay of the construction timer, now units might move out of range before the timer ended, causing the building to despawn. This was especially a problem with the AI’s roads. A few roads in the chain might not complete and the AI had no way of knowing to rebuild them. Delaying the launch date wasn’t an option so unfortunately the game launched with these AI issues making it much less competent than it had been just a few days earlier.

Rather than apply some quick fixes, I wanted to replace the entirety of the AI’s logic and rebuild something more versatile that was capable of macro strategy. That took several complete rewrites of the AI code before everything finally came together, but I’m very pleased with the results. I think it’s going to be a lot better at putting up a fight against skilled players and I definitely enjoy watching the AI battle itself in Autoplay mode a lot more. I’d like to continue improving the AI by giving it more capacity for strategic foresight and cooperation with other losing players to block the leading player’s victory, but those further improvements will have to wait until after multiplayer is live.

I hope you enjoy playing against the new AI and feel free to let me know what you think of it on the Steam forum. If you’re interested in getting more frequent progress updates on the game’s development, along with screenshots of funny bugs, follow @Nonadecimal on twitter too.

Automata Update #1: Welcome to Automata Empire

First of all, I want to thank everybody for playing Automata Empire. While I was certain there would be a community for an objective-based cellular automata game, I didn’t anticipate how many people would be so excited by the idea. It was especially uplifting seeing Automata Empire just below Dark Souls III on the Popular New Releases list.

Because there are so many people playing the game right now, I spent an extra couple days testing the new update. I don’t want to break the game for anybody! Since a few people seem to be having trouble finding the tutorial, I’ve added a one-time welcome screen with some background info about cellular automata and a link to the How To Play section.

Also in this update:

  • the post-game awards now permanently unlock more names for your rulers
  • fixed your ability to pave over enemy roads
  • fixed the 1-7 building hotkeys so they’ll properly toggle the sidebar buttons
  • added a floaty camera to Autoplay mode to make it even more like a screensaver (you can toggle this with the O key)
  • improved the AI’s road-building
  • included 64-bit builds
  • fixed a crash issue

If you encounter any technical issues with the update or the 64-bit builds, please make a thread in the Technical Support forum and I will try to fix things as soon as I am able.

Looking Forward:

Multiplayer is of course the most anticipated feature. Now that release crunch has subsided, I will be able to order new components to replace my charred case and motherboard and see if I can coax some life out of my primary dev computer. I can’t wait to be challenged by everyone in the community in online matchmaking. (there’s a rare achievement for beating me at my own game)

Due to my past work in swarm robotics, I am very excited to continue improving the game’s AI, especially by teaching it to use some of the strategies I’ve observed in other players. While I think the Easy difficulty is well-balanced, I’d like to make Hard harder, maybe even by adding a 4th even harder difficulty.

I will also be implementing more sound effects and adding a post-game stats graph in the future. Just as soon as I finally get my first night of sleep in a week.

Launch Day Tomorrow! Multiplayer Delayed Due To Fire

I’m glad everyone’s so excited about Automata Empire. I’m excited too! Making this game has been a fun challenge and I can’t wait to see what strange systems people engineer within the cellular automata mechanics.

Unfortunately, there was a bizarre accident a few weeks ago in which my dev computer’s USB port and motherboard were briefly ON FIRE. I guess I should have known better than to listen to Dethklok while coding the game.

Luckily, the game’s code backed up before it went up in flames and Automata Empire was saved! But sadly, this means the game will not have online multiplayer available at launch.

I will order new desktop components and arrange a solution to finish testing multiplayer so I can make that feature available as soon as possible. I’ll make an announcement when multiplayer is back online. Since it’s unusual that an indie cellular automata RTS has multiplayer at all, I hope nobody will be upset by this delay.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing screenshots of your mighty empires on the community page this weekend! Thank you all.

Nonadecimal Back at PAX South 2016

After the fantastic showing at PAX South last year, Nonadecimal’s going back to San Antonio for Round 2!

This year I’ll be back at the Black Ice booth 14063, helping out with the cyberpunk FPS for which I’ve been writing and attempting to generate engaging story quests. Black Ice really transformed over the past year and I look forward to being part of its developing story.

PAX will also be the public debut of Nonadecimal’s new game, Automata Empire, a RTS inspired by cellular automata and Conway’s Game of Life. You can watch me playing the game live on XSplit’s twitch channel Saturday the 30th at 3:45 PM Central (1:45 Pacific). I fully expect to get destroyed by the new AI I’m writing tonight.

You can be the first to play Automata Empire Saturday night at the Indies Need Booze PAX after-party. Everyone at the party will get a free Social Justice Warriors key on Steam, as well as a handful of other party favors. You can pick up tickets for the party on Eventbrite. 10% of ticket sales will go to the AbleGamers charity, which supports accessibility for people with disabilities.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have hundreds of lines of Automata code to write before my 3am flight to Texas.