When to provide access to the I-Novae Engine/Battlescape mod tools

I had a discussion earlier with @INovaeFlavien regarding our tools and modding and we decided to solicit some feedback from the community. We know there are a lot of people out there who are interested in getting their hands on our technology and our first step to a public SDK will be modding Infinity: Battlescape. I had an idea that we should release our tools immediately upon successful completion of our Kickstarter to those who pledge a certain pledge tier. The current thought is that early access to the tools would be included for anyone who pledges the alpha testing pledge tier which will basically give them immediate access to the entire development process for I:B.

The one issue with this is that the tools will still be very rough. Basically we’re only polishing them up to the point where we can ship this Kickstarter so the downside is that in the near future the tools will be very buggy and probably crash a lot. The upside is that you will be able to get a head start on building meshes and skins for our engine so that once the game ships you can have content ready to go as soon as we get our virtual marketplace up and running.

Let us know if you think this would be a good idea or if we should just wait until the tools are in a more polished/usable state before releasing them to all modders instead of just those with alpha access.

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I’d suggest having access to the tools as a separate tier or an ‘add on’ so that only people who are actually interested in modding and development would get them.

So, the engine tools will be like the old contribution system where you can make models for inclusion into the game?

I do think that giving the tools to alpha testers right away is a good choice, they’re alpha testers, their purpose is to test things out.

Yes it will be similar to the old contribution system except instead of being a part of the core game contributions will be provided as standalone mods/skins/etc. Contributors can optionally set a price for their mods/skins/etc as well so that we can incentivize the community to provide higher quality content.

Would the SDK include the I-Novae engine or just modding tools for models, skins, etc.?

Both however the part of our editor that is the most mature/usable is the models/skins part. Also, while you would technically be getting the I-Novae Engine binaries there will (initially) be absolutely no documentation and therefore it won’t be immediately helpful to those of you who are programmers. That being said those of you who have learned the fine art of reverse engineering will probably be able to put something together pretty quick.

Personally I suggest that provided you set the right level of expectations, releasing them in an early, buggy form is fine.

Provided the tools have the primary functionality and a reasonable level of stability, getting them out to a wider audience gets feedback (though not always useful feedback) a lot quicker. Having more people with access to it also increases the chance that these users will exercise edge cases you may not have anticipated and provide feedback on those as well.

Also, and most critically, they can tell you which features they’d prefer you to focus on and which they feel are less important. They can even help write some of the documentation for you if they do manage to “reverse engineer” the tools.

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Thanks for your quick reply Keith. I have been following you guys since your first tech demos on YouTube - was it 2006, 2007 or 2008? Time flies… Personally, I’m really not an artist - programming is more my thing - so it’s true that I’m eagerly awaiting to put my hands on the engine to take it out for a spin, so to speak. I’ll be patient and wait until you are done with the API.

By the way, concerning space exploration games, I’m more interested in the explorating/discovering/cataloging thing rather than in the mining/trading or the combatting/pirating/political managing. I was a fan of Noctis, so your engine makes me dream of a kind of next-generation Noctis. To be honest, the dream of a game where we can explore a realistic virtual infinite universe has always been at the no.1 spot on my list since my youth (I’m 50 now) - I just hope it will come true before I drop dead. :wink: So you could hardly find a bigger fan of your project. Thanks and keep up the great job!!!

Pierre

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Prices in real money or in game currency? I know that people sometimes sell 3d models for real money. I’m expecting that they will be sold for in-game currency, but just curious.

Too early to say exactly but i’m currently thinking prices in real money.

And why not. People make a lot of money out of TF2 doing pretty much that.

My feeling is that the tools should be a level above the alpha testing access level. The reason being that not all people that want to alpha test the game will have the skills to be able to do anything with the toolset. Those that have the desire to create mods and models are likely to be cool with paying a little bit more for the privilege. You also avoid having to support those alpha testers that have just decided to dabble with the tools and don’t really know what they are doing.

As for releasing them when they are still a bit buggy, I’d say do it. My experience is users are very understanding about such things and would rather have early access to something with problems than wait for the finished article.

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Any integration with 3rd party software like Maya/Photoshop? Importing/Exporting models and resources?

Currently we support anything that exports to fbx, 3ds, dxf, dae, obj, png, jpg, bmp, dds, gif, and hdr (I might be missing 1 or 2). Max, Maya, and Photoshop can all export to those formats. I’m also considering adding support for OpenGEX (http://opengex.org) which has exporters for both Max and Maya (Blender is on the todo list).

Nice to see you ask the community.

I agree with most point from above.
Just add a giant Alpha watermark and make the tools save every 5 minutes and it would be acceptable.

Yeah, just want to add on I agree with what others are saying - releasing the tools in a rough state is fine, as long as you are clear they are also in development alongside the game.

I also think you should make it separate somehow, so it would be more likely that people who want the tools get it, and those who only want access to the alpha game don’t. I’m not an expert on Kickstarter though so I’m not sure how easy that would be to do.

No, they’re paying costumers - probably paying a lot more than anyone else - who’s purpose is to find what entertainment they can in the product. If they find reporting bugs entertaining, so much the better. If they can recover some of the extra cost by developing in-game content, great.

I would’ve agreed with your position back when games like this charged less for alpha access (full game included). Ye know, the Minecraft and KSP era.

Strictly speaking, they’re investors, not customers. INovae aren’t actually obliged to provide the finished game as a reward (unless they’ve said that it’s a reward), but obviously a game KS that didn’t end up with giving you the game probably doesn’t appeal to that many.

On the other hand, that’s why KS annoys me. Most of the game KS projects set alpha/beta access at the higher tiers, when realistically they should be as low down as possible. The higher tiers should be reserved for things like physical rewards and site visits and the like.

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Alpha/beta is set higher because the traditional game development process excludes anyone outside the dev team from having early access. Therefore early access is typically seen as a reward. In the age of crowdfunded games it also accomplishes a few extra things:

  1. The person paying extra is more likely to be one of your die hard fans. Not all die hard fans are super vocal on forums so this helps you identify those people so that you can reward them with extra goodies in the future.
  2. You don’t want as many people to be beta and alpha testers thus you are restricting it to those who actually really want to test the game
  3. The likelihood that these people understand what alpha/beta testing means and what the state of the game will be like increases dramatically. That way you don’t have a bunch of people firing up the game, it crashing, and them going across the internets saying your game is a buggy piece of crap

I think charging more instead of less for early access, as long as it comes with greater interaction with the dev team, is a win for both parties and naturally those who don’t think it’s a win aren’t going to pay for it anyway - which is fine =).

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Yeah, I see your point. But I think there’s kinda a sensible limit to that. It also depends on whether that reward is solely Alpha access or additional goodies as well. If they only thing on offer at 3 times the expected retail price was alpha access it probably doesn’t represent the best of deals, even for hardcore fans.

That may not matter so much from the developer’s perspective, but it might if those that are intending to participate in the Kickstarter campaign are also expecting early access but not expecting to have to part with that much more money to get it.