One Year in Development

Published on March 26, 2019 by Vasily Vasinov

Yesterday marked one year since I started working on Eons of War—at least that’s what my version control history says! It felt like an important milestone to me, so I decided to go over some development highlights in this post.

I was at a low point in March 2018. My cat just passed, I didn’t have any desire to work on “serious” software projects, and I was considering switching careers into something more creative outside of computers.

My wife suggested that I make a list of things that I always wanted to work on and dedicate two months to every entry on that list. I put “make a computer game” at the top of the list and that’s how it all started.

Eons of War: Early Prototype One of the early game prototypes.

After two months of tinkering with prototypes in Unity I didn’t feel like stopping, so, naturally, I continued building.

The first working prototype was a scifi RPG where the main character flew around star systems and engaged in arcade battles. After winning a battle the player could mine minerals and upgrade their ship combat components and the fuel tank. The character could also gain experience from battles and level up their battle skills. It was a simple game that ultimately didn’t have any interesting mechanics, so I decided to keep brainstorming.

During summer vacation I came up with an idea that made me re-think what kind of game I wanted to build. The idea could be described by asking one single question: what would a strategy game in space feel like if instead of the usual hundreds or thousands of years the gameplay was focused around tens of millions of years?

That seemed like a thrilling idea with tons of possibilities: empire development mechanics focused on a general strategic direction instead of tactical micromanagement, stars constantly changing their properties and eventually going supernova, and outrageous mega-structure projects, like Dyson spheres and ringworlds, being commonplace.

Of course I immediately jumped to prototyping it!

Eons of War: Early Alpha Early alpha version with real-time mechanics.

The first prototype was an RTS game with active pause. All stars had a certain amount of “health” that really was just the amount of energy they had left before collapsing into a black hole. The player could build three buildings around captured stars: energy spheres for capturing energy, ringworlds for growing population, and space fleets for higher combat strength. To reach other locations the player had to create hyperlanes. The game only featured two resources—energy and population—that were used for all actions.

I quickly realized that playing the game (even with such simple mechanics) was very tedious if the player had more than three locations to manage. Simple brute-force AI would beat me almost every time, which was a good sign that something was off.

I decided to make the game turn-based and have actions take several turns depending on the distance between locations.

Eons of War: Announcement Version Public announcement version with a very limited set of features.

After a couple of months of work I had a prototype that was more fun: it introduced a new resource: minerals. The player could also transfer resources between their locations. I also made all actions take only one turn, which dramatically reduced the amount of tedious bookkeeping that the player had to do.

It was October 1 and that’s when I announced to the world what I’ve been working on. I received some pretty subdued reactions, since the game was pretty simple and the graphics weren’t particularly impressive.

I had to keep grinding to make my vision a reality!

After two more months the game changed pretty dramatically. I added space stations for tech research, asteroid fields, fog of war, sounds and music, better graphics, and, finally, implemented the supernova mechanic. The game started to really shape up and I was ready to let players try out an early beta.

Eons of War: Early Beta This is what the early beta looked like in December 2018.

To my great surprise, most reactions were very positive and several people spent hours playing the game. They shared tons of great feedback and ideas for new features. Honestly, after looking at what the game offered back then I’m shocked that people even gave it a chance.

Beta success gave me more confidence in what I was doing. I decided to double down on quality and more mechanics to make patterns of emergence in the game more diverse. I also started to really think through how the game arc felt to players during each play session.

Eons of War: Version 0.15.0 The most up-to-date version of the game with (mostly) complete game mechanics.

Fast forward a few more months to today…the game is in great shape! I added lots of new features, improved graphics, and polished several game systems. There’re currently 10 different structures that the player can build around their locations. In addition to hyperlanes, black holes can be used for attacks and transportation. Each location has a race that provides different bonuses. The player can setup an energy shield to protect themselves against supernovae and attacks. There’re also remote weapons that affect resource production and can even destroy stars! Finally, I added factions, which are movable units that gain experience and can be upgraded to provide disproportionately high bonuses to individual locations.

All new features fit nicely with the original idea of one million years passing by on every turn. Also, it’s still a pretty fast-paced game where each session takes 30-60 minutes on a medium map.

Of course, there’s still plenty of work to finish: improve AI, add multiplayer modes, balance factions, races, and research, polish the graphics, and add more content. I’m super pumped to see what the game looks like in late April when beta 2.0 begins.

I’m grateful to everyone who’s been supporting development from the beginning. I hope you are enjoying following the progress and learning how long-term projects are developed by (mostly) solo creators.