I hope that you guys don't mind me posting posts without screenshots! I like to share both progress on the game, and my ideas/plans for the game. So if you guys just want the pictures/videos, then I'll reduce this kind of posting. The reason why I post this kind of posts is that I don't like long periods of silence from developers on games that I'm following, and I don't want to be like them :)
Now for the release. I'm about to reveal the reason why I've chosen May 31st. According to my doctor, I'm dying. He estimated, using the average lifespan of male Caucasians, I have about 60 years left to life. :(
Actually, the real reason is because of my wife's pregnancy with our second child which is due in end of Summer or beginning of Fall. I'd like to have the game released, and all the associated work related to publishing the game done by then, so I can focus more on my family. I will continue adding features and bug fixing, but I wouldn't be stressed or worried about releasing the game.
Since I've set the release date, I've been evaluating my progress, deciding on what goes in, and what can wait. I want to detail this out so that there's no surprises or disappointments at release. My goal is to get the game PLAYABLE, where people can actually win a game, with basic functionality of 4X games.
I realized that I'll have to keep the technologies basic for now, so this will mean that there's no radar in galaxy map (you'll see all ships from beginning), same in combat (all ships are visible). All empires will be in contact from the beginning. There won't be any fog of war. However, you'll still need to explore star systems, which is the "eXplore" part of 4X.
There are three major features I need to add to space combat: Collision detection (using rectangle/circle collision and circle/circle collision), Ship Damage/Death, and Ship Movement (using Navigation Graph due to it being free-form). Now, the collision detection itself isn't too bad, but the problem is, I need to retrieve the exact points of impact for script processing, which is a bit tricky, instead of just a true/false if something impacts something. Also, I have no experience with Navigation Graph, but I hope that it won't be too hard to implement. Ship Damage/Death will be handled by scripts, so I'm not too worried about that. I've decided that to keep things simple, you attack one planet per turn, and combat will occur with that one planet, instead of the whole star system, similar to MoO 2. So there will be a prompt asking you which planet to attack/bombard.
In order to keep things simple, there will be only beam and projectile weapons. No missiles, torpedoes, bombs, or shockwaves yet :(
Once those three features are done, I will put space combat on hold, and add conflict checking (two empires in same spot results in space combat), then I'm done with space combat until after release. This will be the "eXterminate" part of the 4X, as well as the ground combat.
Colonization/population transfer are done, which is "eXpand" part of the 4X game. Pollution/terraforming are part of the game already.
Now for the "eXploit" part of 4X, you can build ships and terraform planets. Most of the research system are done, but there's no prompts for selecting a new item to research. I will need to add that, and make sure that the basic research works, then I'll leave it until after release. There's no way of scrapping existing ships, I will also need to add that, as well as fleet management screen where you have an overview of all visible fleets (which at this moment includes all ships in the game). Then this will be good enough for the "eXploit" part.
When the above are done, I will add checks for victory/loss, and add the Winner/Loser screen, then focus on polishing the existing features and adding any necessary features that I may have missed.
However, there won't be AI or Diplomacy (which need to be overhauled) until after all the above are done. If I have extra time before the release date, then I will focus on diplomacy.
I'm also adding tutorials to help people learn how to play the game.
This is the list of features that will be in the game, and in the order that I will add them, and estimated time to complete each feature (feel free to copy this and check off each item when I finish them as a count-down to release):
Collision Detection/Handling in Space Combat (Hopefully one to two weeks)
Tutorial System (A day or two)
Ship Damage/Death (Should be one week at most)
Ship Movement/Navigation Graph (Unknown, no experience with navigation. Hopefully just a week, but may take up to a month or so)
Conflict Search in Galaxy (A day or two)
Prompt for which planet to attack/bombard (A day or two)
Research Prompt for new item to research after completing current item (A week)
Ship Scrapping (A day or two)
Fleet Management Screen (A week at most)
Victory/Defeat checking and display (A week at most)
Saving/Loading of games (Hopefully two weeks at most)
At this point, the game is fully playable, and ready for release. The worst case would be 12 weeks if you add up all the weeks/days/months, and it's 14 weeks to May 31st, giving me about 2 weeks of leeway for polishing and fixing bugs. However, if the above features are not done by then, then I will have to push the release date, which I hope won't happen.
The following features will be added hopefully before release if all goes well with the previous features. If not, they will be the first items I will work on next, in order:
Diplomacy (A month, most likely)
AI scripts/processing (Unknown, depending on complexity of adding AI functions to various aspects of game such as combat, diplomacy, planet management, etc)
All the missing extra features of space combat (missiles, torpedoes, etc) (A month hopefully)
At this point, I will then focus on adding extra features, such as stacked ships, radar, ECM/ECCM, tactical star system movement (think of Space Empires IV movement/view inside each star system), space-based races (yes, this won't make into the release, it requires the tactical star system movement feature), different movement systems (starlanes, free movement, star to star only, and maybe others), and so forth. Those extra features will be added to no cost for those who've bought the game. The only "paid" DLC will be cosmetic items such as new races, technologies, data sets, and scripts. Those can be created by modders, and does not affect how the game work, so they're not necessary to obtain all the features of the game.
If you see a feature not listed in the list of items before release, that means it's not going in before release. Again, the goal is to make the game playable, then go from there. This way, I'll avoid the feature creep problem until after the release.
I hope this explains everything about the release plan! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!