It's out on Steam too, which means the below widget now brings you to the Steam store page:
So what's next?
First and foremost, with new players coming in, there's sure to be new bugs discovered. So my first priority is likely going to be putting out some bugfix patches. After that, I want to spend some time on game performance. The new fancy graphics take their toll on the graphics card, and while you can switch them off, it would be much nicer if everyone could enjoy them.
Improving performance means restructuring how airships are drawn from the ground up, which is why I didn't want to risk it in the week going up to version 6. The core problem is that graphics card really hate it when you do lots of small draw calls, and currently that's exactly what's happening. You might think that a 2D game shouldn't tax the GPU that much, but when you have hundreds of airsailors on-screen and make a separate draw call for each of their limbs - it's quite bad.
The solution is to organize drawing into layers. Instead of drawing one ship, one crewmember, after the other, the game will draw all the back walls, then all the modules, then all the gun barrel, then all the crew limbs, and so on. Each of these layers can be a single draw call, collapsing hundreds of them into one.
OK, so that's the immediate plan, but what about new features? What's coming between now and the final release? Well, the development plan I laid out months ago is still more or less correct, though which feature comes in which version is subject to change. There are five major additions I have in mind:
The boarding stuff is cool and works really well, but it took such a long time that I stopped working on it as soon as I had something to show. Which means that there's some... odd missing bits: Crew stranded on the ground just stand there and are unable to move anywhere. Fixing that would pave the way for having ground troops fighting amongst one another and attacking buildings and ships. Most importantly, they can then be trod on by...
Okay, yes, the name of the game is "Airships". But landships, war stompers, steam mechs: totally cool, right? And they're basically the same as a ship or a building, they just have a different method of propulsion. The slightly hard bit here is getting their limbs and tracks to interact properly with the ground.
A more detailed strategic game
As it stands, the strategic mode is really very simple. It could be a lot more interesting. I'm still working on figuring how best to do this. There's a lot I could add, but it's important to pick additions that make the gameplay deeper rather than just more complicated. More detail on this in a later post.
I used to insist that Airships was totally a "Steam/Dieselpunk" game. This will finally become sort of true when diesel engines are introduced. These will be much more powerful and lightweight, and won't require manual supply of fuel, but they'll also be expensive and quite prone to catching fire in a bad way. The reference time period for Airships is about 1860 to 1940, so we'll see a bunch of slightly more modern things cropping up.
Last but not least, the game needs monsters. There's actually dragons in the game now, but only ever seen in the distance, flying past at high speed. Dragons, Turtledoves, Air Krakens, Sentient Floatweed, Giant Spiders, Mechanical Ducks! Some of them you must fight, others might be useful to your own side.