Official development blog

Year 10 of the Cogmind

Well then, we’re well into Cogmind’s 10th year now xD

It’s kinda hard to nail down a clear “ten-year” mark, since we could measure Cogmind’s age from its birth as a 7DRL nearly 12 years ago, or when I started working on it full time in mid-2013, or its first commercial release in May 2015, but anyway yeah this is my 10th annual review, a thing I started doing every year since I decided to build this world of robots in full.

In previous years I’ve opened the review with a collage of dev images of varying themes and content, but approaching the end of this year we have one major theme that stands out, and that I’ll be writing more about below, so let’s hear it for the interface mockups!

cogmind_semimodal_UI_layout_mockups

Mockups put together in REXPaint some weeks ago during a dev stream in preparation for Cogmind’s new UI layout (open for full size).

Development Time

As of the latest tally I’ve reached a total of 16,785 hours of work in these 10 years. Numbers go up.

One of the things I’ve been focusing on a bit more in recent years is a revival of the greater game:non-game work ratio that Cogmind enjoyed in its early years when I was less interested in promoting it and more interesting in just building cool stuff.

Sure even now I still spend lots of time engaged directly with the active player community (which has other benefits for development like feedback!), though definitely less so outside that, as evidenced in part by the lower blog activity until very recently :P

This trend held in 2023, in fact marking the first time I’ve spent more than twice as much time on building Cogmind rather than doing other supporting work since the pre-alpha days!

cogmind_graph_annual_work_game_community_ratio_2014-2023

The ratio of direct work on Cogmind vs optional supporting work, mostly community-facing stuff. (2013 excluded because that year I did very little outward-facing work aside from quick blog posts and little progress updates on various forums, so 2013 would significantly skew the graph as an outlier.)

The dip below 1.0 for more than a year was the Steam release, a hectic time demanding that lots of effort be redirected to promotional needs and fielding customer support and such.

As for 2023 though, the extra focus on Cogmind itself can also be reflected in another graph with a similar path…

cogmind_graph_annual_item_count_increase_2016-2023

Net number of new items added to Cogmind each year. (<2016 excluded as outliers and mostly pre-alpha content being created to seed the first version)

I’ve included 2024 in that graph because the work on all those items was already completed on this year’s dev time, but have yet to be released, and as you can see it’s quite a cache. The final 2024 number by the end of next year will also be higher, almost certainly breaking the record.

Now obviously items are not everything--building the game involves other elements, plus raw item numbers can’t tell a full picture since some are very easy to add while others are quite involved, but Cogmind is an extremely item-centric game, plus they’re easy to quantify :P. This new batch of items in particular is composed of quite a few belonging to the mechanics-heavy very interesting category, so in that regard this spike is quite meaningful. Shown another way:

cogmind_graph_annual_item_count_2015-2023

Net total item count in Cogmind, 2015-2023 and beyond. The first three years there are Alpha, followed by Beta.

I’d share another of those cool item art collages, but I’ve already done that several times this year--scroll down SITREP #51 Another Big Bang to see one.

So overall I think this has been a pretty good use of time, and admit I’ve also also been increasingly motivated (and freed up) by Patreon support to keep focus on development itself, so that’s been quite a boon!

On the flip side, 2023 has also brought significant headwinds that somewhat reduced the total time I could devote to development in the first place (another reason to prioritize game work!). Basically lots of health issues, ugh, among them a repeat of what seriously incapacitated me back in 2017 (albeit from a different source--got randomly attacked by a bird wtf xD). That’s also why I had to cut most of my streaming this year, only doing 7 streams in the last 8 months (25 total streams in 2023 vs 40 last year), but anyway forcing me away from streaming also freed up time for development, so there’s a positive in there somewhere :)

Regardless, development has been accelerating rapidly into the latter months of 2023 and I’m excited to share what’s coming down the pipe, but first there’s more recapping to do…

Releases

A year ago as the end of 2022 approached I decided to pour a couple weeks into building a cool special event, producing Polymind.

cogmind_beta11.2_polymind_logo

“This holiday season you are NOT the Cogmind”

Aside: My annual reviews each year cover a Dec~Nov period, and usually come out in the first days of December--this year’s is late since I was too deep in the coding mines at the time. So Polymind is technically part of Year 10.

It’s a pretty cool mode (still available) that turned out well, I wrote a post-mortem about it, and the effort behind Polymind is already serving as the basis of at least one new official mechanic, after it was proven feasible from a technical standpoint :D

This year’s primary release was Beta 12, featuring revamped Garrisons, a major new faction mechanic, and the generative Scrap Engine build crafter.

cogmind_beta12_encrypted_comms_logo

All your base are belong to us.

The release turned out nicely, but is… definitely not what I originally planned to happen. What was released as Beta 12 was actually supposed to be part of a larger release, but itself grew so large in scope that it took a while to complete and had to be split off and released alone. Funny enough that was a mere precursor to what is continuing to happen to the other content it was to be a part of (now Beta 13, but soon to be more than that xD). More on that later.

Community

The player community continues as strong as ever, with new blood (oil?) joining all the time and friendly veterans teaching the ropes, guiding folks to their first win and beyond. Great to see and be a part of.

The latest prereleases have been experimenting with a unique form of optional Discord integration, which has been good for additional discussion and extra reference material. I wrote about that implementation earlier this year.

Cog-minder and its wiki and tools continue to grow. The original wiki I set up many years ago has been taken out of action by the host’s poor server maintenance--it still exists but recently became inaccessible to most browsers. It had already been partially gutted (the imported stat data) by an impossible MediaWiki upgrade path, so I was going to replace it with something else eventually. In the meantime it’s now a temporary landing page that redirects visitors to Cog-minder.

I’ve added functionality to support another of aoemica’s awesome projects, a combat log analyzer that produces pretty graphs and summaries based on the full export data from Cogmind’s newly-detailed combat log.

aoemica_cogminder_combat_log_analyzer_WIP_231222

aoemica’s combat analyzer! Before the next full release I’ll make further adjustments to Cogmind to further improve the potential accuracy and usefulness of this tool.

Normally I use the annual review to put out a call for some Cogmind votes over on IndieDB in their annual Top 100 list, but being too busy this year and not really wanting to bother with it anyway, just dropped a couple links on the Discord back then--apparently that was enough because Cogmind made the list for the 9th year in a row xD

Far more important is Patreon support, which really keeps things humming along. I greatly appreciate it! It’s especially helpful in this relative lull in outside interest until I get the new UI in order.

veradux_cogtree_2023

A 2023 “cogtree” by veradux, adorned with Runia’s excellent 3D-printed models :D

2024

This is where things get interesting, because 2024 is going to dwarf 2023, easily becoming Cogmind’s biggest year yet. We’re getting map zooming (already built), a new UI layout with larger font sizes for everyone (in the early stages of implementation), and of course the UFD expansion (a sizeable chunk of which is already built as well), plus most likely additional very significant things but I don’t want to speak too soon lest the birds come after me.

nervously glances out the window

Late this year I paused the expansion to prioritize major new UI features, including map zooming after figuring out how to make it compatible with the engine and game in general, as described earlier in this series. Its time has come.

Just this week I streamed the first playtest of that feature, and was pleasantly surprised. With help from new QoL features it was quite playable, even while zoomed in most of the time.

I tried it out with both pure mouse and pure keyboard input. Note that it was streamed as regular play rather than focusing on demonstrating all the relevant features in a short time, so the video is not a good source for a quick summary, but if you want to see it in action that’s one current option, and I did eventually have natural opportunities to test all the features and talk about them.

For better reference I’ll be finishing off that article series with a writeup on the QoL I built to support map zooming (there’s a lot :D).

cogmind_map_zoom_comparison_demo (scene from my test stream)

A snapshot from the stream I modified for use as a cover image to demonstrate the difference from zooming (open for full size).

Following that I’ll be documenting the process of an even bigger new interface project. Yep, even bigger than zooming.

Last month I wrote a little preview about this here, if you’re interested in the details and related numbers, but the gist can be garnered from the scale diagram I compiled:

cogmind_interface_phases_potential_layout_evolution

General overview of potential Semi-modal and Modal UI layouts for Cogmind.

This is what the mockups were created for, allowing Cogmind to be played in a 45-row terminal instead of the current 60, meaning a font size increase of up to 33% depending on resolution. (Although I streamed the mockup work, it wasn’t archived on YouTube since it was a pure laid back impromptu dev stream and we were listening to music.)

There were very significant design and architectural challenges to making this a reality, but having already surmounted them and built the foundations to make it possible, it’s now safe to say this can be a thing, and what I’ll be working on next. Phases 1 and 2 are complete (2 has yet to be released outside patron test builds), and 3 is under construction.

In the coming weeks the blog will start seeing articles about these Phase 3 developments.

That brings us to the 2024 release schedule… As usual I can’t give dates, but what I’d like to do here is give a general idea of what each future release contains, especially since it varies from what was originally projected.

As mentioned there was just going to be Beta 12 and that was Scraptown and friends. Well, “friends” got way too big so I thought I’d split it up into 12 and 13. Then while working on 13, “friends” got even bigger, one map becoming three maps and expanding to include a huge range of mechanics, a major faction, more large-scale events, and a new ending. With the new emphasis on inserting UI enhancements into the process, more splits are in order :P

Below is what I’m thinking for a tentative summary of the coming Beta releases, including what they might be called:

  • Beta 13 “Larger Text/Map Zoom”: Subcaves, map zooming, semi-modal UI
  • Beta 14 “United Federation of Derelicts”: Scraptown/UFD
  • Beta 15 “0bPrime”: New late-game map and ending (mysterious)
  • Beta 16 “Unchained”: Unchained! (you die here, so maybe we don’t need more betas? ;)
  • Beta 17 “Hexidium”: New map for only the bravest minds

Take this list with a pinch of salt, because as you can see plans do change when I decide to add yet more Stuff, but anyway delays only mean simply that--more content and features, so the timing is not super important in that regard. However I do want to try releasing a little more frequently than in past years with these ever more massive updates, so somewhat smaller cuts would be nice where feasible.

Notice I don’t have Phase 4’s modal UI in there anywhere yet, either--it’s too early to say much about that one since it depends on how Phase 3 fares.

I very much look forward to bringing you some awesome releases in 2024!

cogmind_photo_recycler_eating_source_code

Unless a Recycler eats the code.

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2 Comments

  1. Endy73
    Posted December 22, 2023 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Man, I am awed by your mind and your dedication to the game development. Live long and happy and prosper all the way.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted December 28, 2023 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Endy73! Been a long road, wonder when it will finally end? :P

      …and also what lies beyond…

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