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A real-time strategy game where you design airships and then fight with them. The aim is to have pretty chaotic explodey fights and interesting ship design choices.

Purchase includes future versions up to 1.0!

At its core, the game is about designing airships and fighting with them. Ships are put together out of modules, and the layout of modules matters a great deal: everything on board is done by individual airsailors who need to run around, ferrying coal, ammunition, water and repair tools - and sometimes their fallen comrades.

You can command fleets of airships both against the computer and against other players across the Internet.

In addition, there is a single-player strategic mode, where you use your fleet to conquer city after city, unlocking new modules and bonuses with each of them.

The game has an authentic-ish system of heraldry where you can create your own coat of arms, and register it with the game forums as unique to you.

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On Diplomacy

News 4 comments

Diplomacy and co-op combat are the most-requested features for the game. You want to conquer the skies together, I understand that. :)

x coop

I've been working on making this a reality, which has required a fair amount of re-engineering and game design. Today I'd like to lay out my thoughts about diplomacy in strategy games and the design I'm using for Airships.

I'm probably not alone in finding diplomacy in most strategy games really unsatisfying. The AI will hate you for no clear reason, or love you despite you clearly being a threat. Or it will refuse to make any agreement that isn't massively in its favour.

The core problem is that in a strategy game, you're playing to win. All the other empires are enemies to overcome, which makes diplomacy kind of meaningless. Any agreement you make will eventually have to be broken in the pursuit of victory. It's literally a zero-sum game.

x map

So does the AI know it's in a zero-sum game? Is it playing to win, figuring out the optimal strategy? Or does the AI have simulated emotions, loving or hating other empires based on their actions?

Neither is satisfying. In the first case, diplomacy is ultimately pointless. In the second, it becomes a process of manipulating the AI so you can stab it in the back at the moment of your maximum convenience.

Aside: I worry that when some players ask for diplomacy, what they're really asking for is just the ability to choose when to go to war with whom. The other empires passively lining up for slaughter. I can see that this is nice for keeping difficulty on an even keel, and on the easiest difficulty level, this is fine, but otherwise, surely, we want some more initiative from the AI.

So how do we get out of this problem where neither "calculating" nor "emotional" diplomacy is actually fun to play? We figure out a way to make your diplomatic actions actually matter for gameplay, despite the game being zero-sum.

In Airships, I hope to achieve this as follows:

Each empire has a global reputation score that describes how good and honourable they're generally perceived as. Having a low reputation score makes espionage harder, conquered cities resist for longer, and pirates more likely to attack. A high reputation score does the reverse of all that.

x soldier11

In addition, if you have very good reputation and control more than half of the cities on the map, you can crown yourself emperor and win the game like that. The coronation takes a while and can be disrupted, but it's an alternate victory condition for people who don't enjoy crushing every last piece of resistance.

x coron

How does this tie into diplomacy? Well, declaring war in and of itself doesn't cost you reputation. Airships is set in a fantasy version of the wild and wooly days where war was considered a perfectly healthy thing to get up to, good for the digestion and all that. But breaking treaties, that's what costs you.

For example, the difference between just being at peace and being in a non-aggression pact is that you've promised not to attack each other, and you're backing that promise with a chunk of your reputation. The stronger the bond of a treaty, the more reputation you lose if you break it. So declaring war on an ally will cost you a lot of reputation.

It's breaking your word that decreases your rep, not war in and of itself. If you never make any treaties, your reputation can't be damaged - but everyone's also free to attack you.

And note that it's perfectly possible to win with really low reputation - you're just playing as the bad guys conquering the entire world.

x wall10

So how do you improve your reputation? Slaying monsters, defeating pirates.

x pirate

The other mechanism that complements reputation is grievances. When you do a bad thing to another empire, you lose X reputation, and you also cause X grievances with that empire. The other empire can now retaliate and have its grievances subtracted from the reputation loss it would suffer.

For example, if Kulinrovod cancels a research agreement with Ul Qoma, it loses 3 reputation and Ul Qoma gets 3 grievances with Kulinrovod. Ul Qoma can now cancel a trade agreement, which is also 3 reputation points, and pay for it by losing its 3 grievances with Kulinrovod instead of losing reputation.

Here's a rundown of all the diplomatic options that are currently planned. Note that as always, these are things I'm still working on, so they are subject to change.

Main relationship:

  • War - Any fleets that encounter one another will fight. This is what it's like in the game right now.
  • Ceasefire - To get to peace from war you have to go via a ceasefire. Fleets no longer fight. Violating a ceasefire carries a reputation penalty. Unbroken ceasefires eventually turn into peace.
  • Peace - The new default state. Fleets that encounter each other in neutral territory don't fight. Sending a fleet to a city owned by another player is a declaration of war, though. Declaring war from this state doesn't cost any reputation.
  • Non-Aggression Pact - You can now send fleets to each other's cities without causing a war. Breaking this costs rep.
  • Defensive Pact - You pledge to assist your pact brother in defensive wars. Costs more rep to break.
  • Alliances - You are automatically involved in your allies' wars, offensive and defensive. If your alliance controls the whole map, you win together.

Additional relationships:

  • Tribute - One empire pays part of its income to the other.
  • Trade Treaty - Both empires have their income slightly boosted.
  • Research Treaty - Both empires have their research slightly boosted.

These all cost some rep to break, too.

I'm in the process of gluing all of this together now. Diplomacy logic, the user interface, the new game rules about combat, and the AI to actually understand and act on these concepts. It will be a while yet, but I hope you enjoyed this overview.

x diplo

Bug Hunt: Fixing Combat AI

Bug Hunt: Fixing Combat AI

News 1 comment

Rundown of a weird and stupid bug I found and fixed in the game's combat AI.

Airships: Conquer the Skies is complete!

Airships: Conquer the Skies is complete!

News 3 comments

After five years of dev, my steampunk shipbuilding RTS has launched.

Strategic Multiplayer Dev Log 2

Strategic Multiplayer Dev Log 2


Work on multiplayer strategic conquest continues, fixing desync issues and working on setup and resume GUI.

Strategic Multiplayer Dev Log 1

Strategic Multiplayer Dev Log 1

News 2 comments

I’m embarking on an attempt to make multiplayer strategic conquest work in Airships. Let's see what happens!

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Comments  (0 - 10 of 63)

hey guys sorry... im new here...so....
how do you run the game?

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Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes

somebody should make a lets play where its one city defence get money and build defences only i want to see how that will play out.

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Great game

Reply Good karma Bad karma+6 votes

I did a Let's Play/First impressions on this game! Come check it out if ya like!
Big thanks to the developer for this great game!
Hope you enjoy.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+6 votes

Wow! what a nice and original idea. Looks very fun! follow! =D

Reply Good karma Bad karma+4 votes

Looks like a whole lot of fun...and chaos. Definitely tracking this!

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Great idea - keeping an eye on this :)

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I love this game soooo much! HAHAHAH!


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Are you planning on adding a map for Multiplayer? I have friends getting the game. Although it looks like they are waiting for another option besides paypal to pay with. .

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Zarkonnen Creator

The issue with making a MP map is that combats and strategy work at different timescales, so you'd spend a lot of time waiting for other peoples' fights. Not sure how to fix that.

Re: PayPal - what kind of payment method would they like? I totally understand that it's not exactly everyone's first choice. Am up for anything, including stuffing money into an envelope. :P

Reply Good karma+7 votes
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Highest Rated (2 agree) 10/10

Great game. I've been playing since Dev2 and it gets better each time. It's a steal for only $5. Reminds me of the Total War games with it's campaign map.

Apr 24 2014 by CanofSodaGames


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