Many of you who follow us regularly on Discord and take part in our private streams will know much of what I'm about to say already, so feel free to chastise me for a lack of new information. Nevertheless, there may be some of you who are as yet unaware of the major changes that are currently unfolding in our mods. The truth is that Armada 3 is not the only mod of ours that is undergoing a major overhaul.
Several members of the team weren't entirely happy with the state Ages of the Federation was in at the time of its release in May last year. While limitations with stock Sins, exacerbated by the last of Stardock's updates certainly played their part, we felt that we had fallen short of our original vision. The reasons for that are varied, so I won't be going into them here, but regardless of each team member's individual opinion the consensus is that AOTF just didn't quite match what we had hoped it would be.
So what are we going to do about it?
Believe it or not, work on AOTF2 actually inspired the process that is currently underway for AOTF - a change is as good as a rest and a clean slate has a way of lending perspective and sparking the imagination. As such, the scope of the changes being made are such that this can't really be considered a simple update for Ages of the Federation, but a full-blown re-release.
I'm sure you're wondering what's in store, so I'll start with the most obvious change:
The Federation faction, as you know it, no longer exists.
No, we haven't gotten rid of the Federation entirely - honestly, could you even do a Star Trek game without including the Federation in some way? - but what's taken its place is virtually unrecognisable. But more on the Federation later. Inspired by our faction-split idea for AOTF2 and by our explorations or the lore of the Earth-Romulan War, we've decided to create an entirely new playable faction for AOTF - the Coalition of Planets.
This means that, rather than choosing to play as the Federation and progressing down the research tree from the ENT-era to gradually achieve a TOS aesthetic style and level of technology, you'll have the option to play entirely in the 22nd Century. And believe me, based on the progress we've already made, the Coalition is going to be a lot of fun.
True to Star Trek lore (of course), you can expect Coalition forces to be made up of a diverse range of ships, from your comparably utilitarian Earth Starfleet ships, to the swift warships of the Andorian Imperial Guard, to the sturdy support ships of Tellar Prime to the peerless starships of the Vulcan Command, including the mighty D'kyr as your titan. Those of you who may have been disappointed that the original release of AOTF didn't feature these races in a playable capacity can now rest easy - you can now act out the fifth season of Enterprise we never got.
In the original release of AOTF we found that many of the ENT-era Starfleet ships simply weren't being used, especially in the late game - which is understandable. Stat-wise they couldn't match more advanced ships, even with the aid of special abilities, and who's going to build Jupiter and Neptune-classes when ships like the Marklin and Cardenas are available? Also, for canon nerds like me it always looked strange seeing the NX fighting alongside ships like the Connie. Ultimately we decided that the best thing to do was to give these ships their own faction to let them truly shine.
Ship roles and stats have already been completely reworked to reflect the difference in the time period. The D'kyr itself has been rescaled to more accurately portray its enormous canonical size, and Max has been hard at work applying higher detail skins to many of the ENT-era ships - dat Poseidon doe... We think (and hope) you're going to have a lot of fun with the Coalition fleet, especially when going up against the Romulans.
"Huzzah! But what of the Federation, Orion?"
The Federation faction is being completely overhauled to represent Starfleet during the 2260s - far more homogenous than during the 22nd Century, with each ship being a powerhouse of technological ability. You can expect amazing phaser coverage and a great deal of supporting special abilities. The fleet itself is being rebuilt from the ground up, with some ships from the original release being removed altogether and others having their role completely changed. Many of you will be pleased to hear that the Constitution-class is now a capital ship, so you can build more than one. And what's taking its place as the titan? Why, the mighty Federation-class dreadnought, of course - and she's an absolute beast. Other popular designs, like the Saladin and the always loved Miranda will be appearing, too.
All in all, just as the faction separation gives the ENT-era fleet its time to shine, it also allows the TOS fleet to reach its full potential. They're great to play, especially against the Klingons.
"And what about the Klingons and Romulans?"
The Klingons and the Romulans will both be receiving their own significant (but less extensive) overhauls. Their fleet rosters, weapons and abilities will be reorganised and rebalanced for a competitive experience. Expect a few surprises from them, too.
"And what else is being overhauled, Orion?"
One aspect of AOTF we were all happy with was the visuals. But why settle for mere happiness!? Visual improvements are well underway. As I've already said Max has been hard at work retexturing many (most) of the Coalition/Federation ship models, greatly increasing the amount of surface detail you'll be able to see on the ships in your fleet when you inevitably zoom right in to admire the beauty of your collection of vessels.
As many of you would have no doubt figured from our most recent screenshots, we're also working with the Sins: Remastered team to implement their PBR lighting system into AOTF. Lighting, shadows and shading in Sins have always been rather tricky and no one knows the ins and outs of Sins' lighting better than the SIns: Remastered team. Initial results are very promising and we think you'll agree that the outcome will be well worth the effort. Here's an example of Max's brand new Daedalus model with PBR shaders at work:
On the 2D side of things, Hobbs has been working like a one legged man in a butt-kicking competition upgrading the game's menus and in-game UI. We're particularly proud of his new faction select screens.
Faction-specific UIs are also in the works, relacing the single, generic UI that we implemented with all factions in the original release in AOTF. Hobbs has already completed the Federation UI, with the Romulan UI well on the way. We're looking forward to seeing his work with the Klingons.
As for the AI, lead coder Echo has been toiling away at the rock face deep in the code mines. Along with drastically overhauling special abilities and rebalancing and reassigning ship roles. The good news is that one of our biggest gripes with AOTF, the performance of the AI, has largely been rectified and this is largely due to Echo's efforts.
We've also made something of a discovery with sound, specifically the computer voice lines that you hear throughout the mod. Our new friends over at xVAsynth are in the process of developing an 'AI voice acting synethesis tool' that allows developers like us to create their own lines of voice acted dialogue. It's so far allowed us to create various lines of computer diaogue, such as when the computer warns you that your forces are under attack, that your capital ships are damaged, or you're running low on resources. This synthesiser has already been very useful to us and has the potential to be an absolute Godsend to modders and developers who might otherwise struggle to gather or record voice lines. xVAsynth has a Patreon and we would certainly appreciate it if you at least consider giving them your support. Go ahead and join them on Discord for more information.
"What about your other projects?"
Armada 3 is coming - like a train loaded with steel, there's no stopping this juggernaut we've created. Much of the team's time has been diverted to helping get it ready for its inevitable release. This has been a long, hard (giggity) labour of love for Bane and his team and they deserve a whole heap of praise for what they've accomplished. I know they're looking forward to finally getting it out there for you to play, and that day is coming soon.
As for Ages of the Federation 2, with the team diverting most of its time to STA3 and the extensive changes to AOTF that project has been put on temporary hold. With only so many hours in the day there just isn't time to simultaneously work on three projects. Rest assured, however, that this is not a stop, merely a pause. Many of the changes to AOTF will also be applied to AOTF2, so work on one is essentially work on the other. Even so, you can expect updates for AOTF2 to slow down for a while. We'll get back to it as soon as we can.
That should be just about it for now. We hope you're looking forward to the new AOTF. Let us know what you think.
'Til next time, stay classy. Or don't.