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Second Edition is Coming in the Year 3000

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:11 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
Hey, it's been quiet here for way too long. But the good news is that after another round of internal development and testing the Second Edition VBAM campaign rules are almost done. As in done-done. I took a look at feedback from our last series of playtests and have been working on reconciling that against where we were with the rules. That has meant spending the last 8 months working to tighten up the unit design and research rules, which were still one of the weaker element in the 2E prototype. We've been running some internal playtests since January to test out these changes and make sure we haven't missed anything too egregious.

Right now we have the 2E Campaign Guide in a near final draft state. There are three pieces of the rules that are awaiting some final playtest feedback before they are finalized and set in stone. Almost all of the rest of the text in the book is finished. Trimming the proverbial fat from the 2E working drafts has left us sitting at just over 100 pages of rules. Once all of the tables and charts are added to the Scenarios chapter I expect we should end up around 120-130 pages, or about the same size as the 1E Campaign Guide.

My personal timeline for completing this project is as follows:

By April 30 the book will be completed in its entirety. Full stop. I've taken several days off of work this month to make sure that happens. I actually fully expect the draft to be done by this Sunday, but I know that the best laid plans can always run into minor disasters and we have to account for that.

What will happen then is that I'm going to send out a copy of the rules to the usual suspects for a final review to see whether or not they can spot any glaring issues that we may not have caught during this last round of playtests. The VBAM crew will be running a final series of internal playtests (solo and multiplayer) to run through about 2-3 years of turns to double check on our end that all of the rules we need are there and find any remaining rule conflicts or hangers-on from previous drafts that no longer apply to the current build of the rules.

That playtesting is going to happen over the course of the month of May. During that time I'm going to be taking the draft and laying it out in InDesign and getting everything ready for release. I'm shooting tentatively for June 1, but unless something dire happens it will be out that first month in June.

:roll: I know, I know, you're heard it all before. This has been as frustrating for us as it has been for you.

We spent way too much time trying to get this new edition just right because it is going to serve as the foundation for everything else that we're going to be releasing for the next 5-6 years. We have a large backlog of projects from the last few years that have been waiting for this book to be completed so that we could move forward with them. The long drought is going to give way to veritable tsunami.

Now, what about the rest of the VBAM campaign system rules? With the Campaign Guide completed we can begin adapting the rules that we already had developed to the new edition. Right now we're getting a feeling for where everything is going to go. We have the documents shared and are collaborating to decide where everything is going to end up. Right now it looks like the best guess is that we're going to concentrate on three products after the Campaign Guide's release:

FIRST CONTACT, the spiritual sequel to the Menagerie, will provide updated rules for alien species, governments, and the associated trait system that allows players to create more colorful and unique empires in their games. There is going to be a shift away from the leveled traits of 1E to more flavorful, interesting traits that are only applied once but have distinctive characteristics. For example you might run into a Scavenger that has bad construction capacity at its colonies but can salvage ships after a battle. That sort of thing. There is also a good chance that this book may end up containing some of the advanced system generation rules to tie in with the alien species components, but that is still being decided.

A DISTANT STAR, the solo campaigners guide. This is the book for people that want to play a solo campaign. After years of 2E development it became clear that many of the elements that I feel are core to the game experience are of less interest in the multiplayer arena and fit better in a book that is all about solitary play. Non-player empires are going to find their home here, along with low tech powers and a different take on standard system generation (based on the star types that were in previous 2E drafts). The focus of this book is giving the player all of the tools and guidance they need to sit down and play a solo campaign from start to finish.

WITH A PURPOSE, a guide to local campaigns with an objective system for the game for players that want to play a different kind of VBAM campaign. This concept builds on the 1E materials that were originally developed for Federation Admiral, but revised and updated to work with the Second Edition.

These are the products we'll be focusing our efforts on. The 2E COMPANION is still in the mix, but at this point most of the important rules from that book are either already in the 2E Campaign Guide or another product or just don't gel with the direction that the game is headed. Most of the advanced star system rules are going to end up joining the NPE rules in A DISTANT STAR, most of the combat updates are already in the CAMPAIGN GUIDE, and the elite officers are going to live again in THOSE WHO SERVE -- it's just that THOSE WHO SERVE is of a lower priority at the moment. We also have quite a bit of pirate-related content that will probably make it's way into a folio release after 2E is released, but we haven't made any decisions on that point yet.

What players should also look for in the future are a lot more DLC style content from VBAM Games in the form of map, scenario, and faction packs that are intended for players that just want to pick up a pre-generated scenario and play. How many of these we do will depend heavily on how well they sell, obviously, but we feel that this is a good way to keep releasing new content for the game in between our major releases.

With the CAMPAIGN GUIDE releasing around the first of June, I'm fairly sure that the first of the three follow-up supplements will hit in August. The reason for this fast turnaround is that the rules have more or less been written -- many for several years -- they just need to be updated to the current 2E rules and then prepped for release.

Thank you all for your patience over these last several years. We hope that Second Edition will reward that patience with a system that is easier to play and more robust than the First Edition. We're very excited to be this close to release.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:39 am
by sfsct3172
Can't wait. Put me down for one of everything. The Distant Star book sounds really interesting. Not to add to the work load, but I would recommend a chapter somewhere on "best tactics and techniques etc" for running a campaign online over email, or off a blog, as well as just solo. Just a thought.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:44 am
by zyffyr
Short response : YAY!!!!!
Somewhat longer response: YAY! But I have to wait for 3 books for what I "need". As long as they really do come as quickly as indicated, much happiness will ensue.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:22 am
by Tyrel Lohr
I'm fairly confident that FIRST CONTACT and A DISTANT STAR will be out in a fairly rapid fire manner this summer. First Contact is almost completely a refresh and update of existing rules, and that means that it is a case of balancing for the new edition and adding in the newer content. It's also the "fun" book that I wanted to work on several years ago, so expect a lot of new things there. A Distant Star could take a bit longer to put together, depending on just how broad a concept the game ends up taking on, but I think it's mostly going to be a case of sitting down and getting the commentary written and make final decisions on how to wind up some of the 2E optional rules.

As I think I've mentioned before, one of the few upsides of having taken this long to get Second Edition out the door is that Jay and I both have a lot of rules developed that either didn't make it into 2E proper or that were good ideas but didn't work as integral rules. As optional rules, however, it's fairly easy to figure out how they work within the context of the new rule system. And instead of holding that content over for massive omnibus supplements we plan on releasing smaller books as it becomes apparent that we have enough content along a specific theme to make it viable. For example a small 36-48 page supplement that expands on pirates, adds in the underworld empires from 1E, and generally makes pirates more detailed.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:50 am
by Shadow Warrior
Sounds like With A Purpose is going to be the game that Federation Admiral should have been and now clearly won't be. There was a preview column of it in Captain's Log 48 Supplemental. Combat resolution using Federation & Empire? No thanks.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:19 pm
by jwthomp
How accessible/obvious will solo play be with 2E before First Contact comes out? I'm almost entirely a solo player so I'm very anxious for First Contact, but also curious how solid solo play will be without it.

Thank you for any thoughts,


Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:43 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
To the best of my knowledge Federation Admiral is still moving forward, albeit slowly (Jay knows better than me about where that's headed). With a Purpose is going to take those core concepts though and apply them to Second Edition and provide a standalone local campaign scenario tailored to the experience. We're currently discussing the exact scope of that scenario, but we should have more to report in the next few weeks.

Solo play will still be fairly accessible with just the Campaign Guide. What you'll be missing are the explicit non-player empire rules for diplomacy. The decision was made to hold those rules back because they didn't mesh well in the CG, and because that book already includes non-aligned worlds as neutral third-parties that players can trade with or conquer as they see fit. I have two to three competing prototypes for the NPE diplomacy rules for 2E, and I'll be finalizing that for A Distant Star. The 1E rules still work fine, but part of the goal with 2E was to make everything a bit easier to manage by reducing the amount of "busy work" you have to do each turn. That extends to maintaining NPE relations, which was dice intensive in the past.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:58 pm
by jwthomp
Thank you, I'm definitely looking forward to the expansion.


Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2014 4:06 pm
by MarkG88
Sounds great! :)

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:00 am
by murtalianconfederacy
So, that seems like I'll be wanting the Campaign Guide, First Contact and A Distant Star. With a Purpose sounds potentially interesting, but as my main (okay, sole) campaigns will be solo, A Distant Star will be my main buy along with the campaign guide, and First Contact will be useful for when/if I get really into VBAM 2E.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:23 pm
by PaulB
Cool beans!

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:53 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
The Campaign Guide, First Contact, and A Distant Star are likely to be the three core books of Second Edition in the same way that Campaign Guide, Campaign Companion, and Menagerie were the core of First Edition.

Jay is continuing his editing pass of the Campaign Guide as I finalize rules and slot them in. I'm also getting content updated and moved over into the other books as I come across them. Everything seems to still be in target. I did take a bit of time off last weekend to work on another project I've had on the back burner: rules for nomad fleets. Expect to see those crop up as a mini-supplement after release.

I also had a chance to begin updating the 1E Government rules to 2E. I am changing the focus of those rules to be on providing bonuses instead of a mix of bonuses and penalties in order to eliminate situations where certain political focus and government type combinations were objectively bad (as in they canceled each other out). Most of the empire penalties are likely to be converted into traits instead. That way while you could run into situations where penalties canceled out bonuses, you're at least going to be getting something else out of it.

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:07 am
by OneMadOgre
If I pay for it now, can I get access to the drafts so I can work on the play aid? :lol:

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:52 am
by Tyrel Lohr
OneMadOgre wrote:If I pay for it now, can I get access to the drafts so I can work on the play aid? :lol:
Oh, you! :)

In your case a special exception can be made! I'll PM you later this weekend and pass over a copy of the rules for you to look at. We made your life miserable by changing a lot of the sysgen to a hybrid of 1e and 2e concepts, but don't fear: the detailed start information will ride again as optional rules shortly after release.

But I will be in touch!

Re: Second Edition is Coming June 2014

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:30 pm
by SLea
Excellent news that the game is coming out. Although the rules for NPEs and low-tech powers will appear in 'A Distant Star', will they still be fully compatible with multi-player play for those who want to use them for that?