Version 10 “Alpha’s End” By the Numbers

Version 10, “Alpha’s End,” the newest version of Aes, has finally been released! This has been a long, extended undertaking for us, fraught with delays, but also yielding some very high quality results.

Pages: 389
Faculties: 249
Modifications: 718
Testing time: 15 months

The first major difference: time. Version 10 had the longest development cycle of any single version. In the 15-month span it took us to finish this, we’d completed the first eight versions of Aes!

We’d like to say all of this was testing and refining. Indeed, quite a lot of it was. We wrote entirely new crafting material and went through several versions for each. We added dozens of pages of lore. We radically altered how distance and motion work in the game’s engine. However, there was a distinct delay in development caused by personal life issues during this time. We’re only human, so we’re glad we were able to work through it in the end.

No surprise version 10 was tested at the most conventions of any version before it. This was the first one tested twice at the same convention and the first to be used twice for other annual events in the fall. We doubt it will be the last in this regard. For weekly sessions, we actually paused running Aes in stores for a few months to help focus energy on development. However, even with that pause, there were well over 50 sessions of Aes run using this incarnation. The extended testing cycle meant we caught a lot of typos and the wording for several faculties got tweaked several times to be easier to understand.

The new content is evident in the other numbers. Compare them to the stats of version 9. Fifty-seven new pages and that’s despite cuts! We removed items like charges and serums we felt worked better in expansion material.

As for material added, we had 23 new faculties (a modest gain), but a crazy 232 increase in modifications! This is not shocking given how much crafting we added on: vis tinnabulators, thrumbines, simuloids, capes, and bucklers. With their addition, we now have the fully realized stock of tinnabulators and turngears we wanted for the core book. We also added faculties supporting armor usage and some new tricks for Volition.

And the changes went far beyond more faculties and mods. Lore has been greatly expanded. Taking a recommendation to focus on Laton as the main setting rather than the entire nation of Aeneam, we zoomed in on the capitol city. There’s enough lore and hooks for each sector of Laton that an Invisible Hand can likely think of some clever ideas. Memberships have been implemented, accompanied with lore on several major groups in Aeneam that players can join.

To improve accessibility to new players, character creation has been revamped to flow even better. There are a lot of steps, but that’s because we unpacked each one for maximum clarity. Down the line we might group some of them together, but for now this highly detailed breakdown has tested well with new players. At the end of the book is now a glossary so all the jargon and pronouns are succinctly summarized for quick and easy reference.

We also did one of the first major system changes since version 5 and 6. Motion and distance are no longer measured in exact numbers. Instead, they are listed as relative speeds and proximities. This allows the Invisible Hand to “fudge” things in combat. The main benefit is an explorer caught in the wrong place during combat doesn’t have to wait as long as to come running in if they’re slow. It can be said just a single turn running is enough.

Range is now a set of approximate distances from one another, rather than a carefully calculated sum of meters. This addresses one of our major issues from testing since day 1: the accounting mini-game. Explorers want to play the game and do crazy maneuvers and stunts. Running the math to see if they can run and then attack with the AP they have and then being disappointed if they come up a little short goes contrary to good action. Now the Invisible Hand has greater freedom to handwave it away. (The official term for running an Aes game is “invisible handwaving.”)

The other major change we made relates to an earlier post about the Armor Problem. We’ve dropped the health point / body point system. Now, explorers start with sturdiness from armor. Once their armor breaks, they start taking damage to health. Health is hard to recover (only 10% per respite), so taking HP damage is quite dangerous. That leaves explorers to balance the downsides of taking heavier armor over ensuring they aren’t killed in the field.

What’s next?

Version 10 is the end of the alpha phase for Aes. At 2 years and 4 months, this is longer than we anticipated, but not well outside expectations. It can take RPG’s 5 years or more to see completion.

Our next version will be the beginning of the Beta. This will be noted in the numbering. When we began, we numbered the alpha versions as 0.01A. We later scrapped this in favor of 1.0A, 2.0A, etc. since people were reluctant to play a game with decimal iterations. With version 10, we’re now at 0.10A. The beta will begin at either be 0.1B or 0.2B – we’re still de-beta-ing (ha). We’ll likely refer to them as 1.0B and 2.0B, but the goal is that 10.0B will in fact be version 1.0 of the game – the final release copy.

To get the first beta version ready, we have several long-term tasks. First, talents need to be balanced and revised to match the lore focus on Laton. Second, the Invisible Hand section is going to get an overhaul so we can grow the number of game runners.

Third, and the largest task, we’re going to a broad meta-review of every faculty and mod to evaluate exactly what play styles and combinations are currently at work. We’ve already observed that certain faculties are more popular than others. We have a rough idea of what works as an individual faculty that makes explorers want to use it. Insight into synergy is what we’re missing at this stage. We want to make sure that many common types of explorer behaviors – combat and non-combat – are supported and encouraged in the core book.

These three issues will take time. As we begin work on them, we’re going to resume running games. Our focus is going to be developing a suite of adventures for Laton we can formalize and release to go with the core book down the line. It’ll also let us see what content is most relevant to the setting and what we can move to other planned releases in the future.

Advertisements

Aes-tra Life Online Fundraiser Event

We’re pleased to announce that Aes: Brass Revolution will be partnering with Extra Life and Dell Children’s to present a special fundraising event!

When: Noon, Saturday, November 5th until Noon, Sunday, November 6th
Where: Skype

We’ll be raising money through our Extra life team: Team Brass. Using Skype, players of Aes from many areas will take part in a 24-hour marathon game: “Vis for Vendetta.” The session will be recorded and released later. Donate to the team page to show support for the tabletop gamers making the commitment.

We’re looking for 4-8 players who can participate. We so far have 2 who are interested in the entire duration and 1 who’ll join us in the evening. So definitely room for more!

For more details, check out the Facebook event page.

April and May Events – Fundraisers!

April and May return Aes: Brass Revolution to activity, ending our 2 month break.

HavenCon

From April 22-24, we’ll be at HavenCon! We’re helping to run Tabletop (and we’ve pitched in with scheduling). Aes: Brass Revolution sessions will be happening all weekend. It’s version 8’s big premiere!

The big centerpiece? A fundraiser for TransLifeLine! Taking place Saturday, April 23rd at 7 PM, the event will be something new: an audience driven RPG session. We’ve expanded beyond the $1 re-rolls used for Extra Life and introduced a means for the audience to influence the world the players inhabit. We’re hoping we can add to the money HavenCon has already raised for TLL. Players include DJ Sephi Hakubi, RainFay (head of Ooples’ Anime Club), and EB Roxas (Austin indie game developer).

Speaking of Extra Life, we’ve formed Team HavenCon! This will be the second year HavenCon has sponsored a team for Game Day. We’ll post more about it later, but it’s on November 5th and we have two stores on board: Ooples Anime and Wonko’s Toys and Games! We’ll be promoting the team at HavenCon by routing people to the Extra Life booth and getting them to sign up.

International Tabletop Day

The week after HavenCon, we’ll be at Ooples Anime in Austin for International Tabletop Day! It’s Saturday, April 30th from noon to midnight with tons of games.

What sets the Ooples event apart from the others? We’ll be fundraising for the Innocence Project of Texas (IPTX). This is an incredibly important organization. With baseless accusations, false arrests, and wrongful convictions on the rise, IPTX stands for people the system has tried to destroy to offer them hope. The executive director and deputy director will both be there to collect donations and join in, making it a great chance to meet people who work for justice and liberty everyday.

We’ll also have a presence in San Antonio. Through GamExpo, we’ll be sending materials for them to distribute to participants at their event. It’s always great to support gaming cons.

ChupacabraCon

Lastly, we have another con! May 13-15 in Round Rock, ChupacabraCon is a great local gaming con. We’ll be running 4 sessions of Aes there: 1 on Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday. This will be a great weekend where we get to hang out with other game developers. The feedback we’ll receive should go a long way toward version 9.

After this, our next con isn’t until July. We’ll be using the time to get version 9 together, as well as finish the first iteration of the Expanse for testers. Anime Austin, ArmadilloCon, Anime Overload, San Japan, and RealmsCon are the current cons on the list.

Extra Life 2015

Aes: Brass Revolution will be part of the 24-hour Tabletop Game Day event for Extra Life this year! Hosted at Wonko’s, this will be the biggest tabletop event in Austin on that day. We’re honored to be taking part and helping to raise money for Dell Children’s in Austin. They’re looking to get ROSA, a robotic surgery tool to perform complex operations on young kids.

We’ll be running a series of one-shots for Extra Life for the entire 24-hour period (or as long as we can stay awake). The event is all ages, so stop on by and bring the family along. There won’t be a tabletop event this big until next year!

Details:

Where: Wonko’s Toys and Games, 13776 N Highway 183, Ste 116, Austin, Texas 78750

When: 11/7 Saturday 8 AM – 11/8 Sunday 8 AM

Who: HavenCon, Wonko’s, Extra Life, Steve Jackson Games, the Communi-cast, and more!

HavenCon’s Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1651126975144497/

Aes’s Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1049597945090915/