Author Archives: Chris

Stellar Monarch 2 version 1.15

Version 1.15 released

This version is a result of digging out stuff from very old forum posts, reviews and comments to reviews. I have analyzed the most common complains over last year (even dug through some ancient Early Access posts as well) and tried to track and examine what are the key and recurring things that should be improved. I made some interesting changes based on this analysis. First, a small change with big repercussions, now the number of Core Worlds is tied to Centralization. This solves micromanagement issue when it comes to making cores, especially in a huge galaxy settings, which also improves the late game balance since it reduces the number of cities in the late game without affecting the early game. Next, High Command Staff mechanic was removed, it got an enormous number of complains and the consensus was that the game would be better without this feature. Rules selection was streamlined and made more clear, now there is an Imperial Mode (default one) and Throne Mode (for people who wish even more “rule from the heights of the imperial throne” gameplay). Modernizations mechanic, which split the community into lovers and haters, got more automatization options (for those who do not enjoy that part of the game), this automatization is also now enforced in Throne Mode. Next comes a bunch of interface improvements, bug fixes and rebalance of ministers.

One request, if you find a bug please post it on the Steam forums. I had to dig through a lot of reviews to find those and those would have been fixed much earlier if I know about them. So, when you find a bug, please post on the forums. Also, if you have certain suggestions, please copy the stuff from your review to the forums as well. It’s much easier to find (plus it allows a discussion).

Note that because of the heavy changes in this version I made v1.14 Beta branch available in case you wanted to finish your old game using the old rules.

– [feature] Automatic ship hulls modernization option (if you select the appropriate checkbox in Options AI will automatically decide on ship hulls modernizations and report it each time).
– [feature] Throne Mode (previously called Hands Off ruleset) now enforces “Automatic ship hulls modernization” (regardless of option selected), so you don’t deal directly with modernizations in this mode.
– [feature] Now there is a more strict limit to Core Worlds (maximum 30 + 3 Core Worlds per point of Centralization but no more than 50% of planets).

– [removed] Removed Imperial High Command staff mechanic (replaced with a simple static image showing high command in work). Basically, no one liked it and most people voted that the game would be better without it. In future the feature might return in some other form.
– [removed] Removed Total Control ruleset (I feel no one was using it anyway, if requested the effects of this ruleset can be added as “Extra rules” in future versions), now the rules selection looks much more intuitive. If you have a save that runs on this ruleset it will work correctly.

– [misc] Less suicidal diplomacy of minor civilized aliens towards the Empire, they are now much more reluctant to declare war if the Empire is much bigger than them.

– [balance] SpecOps gain per turn scaled to the game length (to make rebellions equally difficult regardless of the game speed settings).
– [balance] Drastically increased ministry expansion cost (it was way too low), also adjusted expansion administration points cost.
– [balance] Adjusted ministry efficiency effect on ministry events chances (was geared too much towards positive events) and added difficulty level bonus/penalty. Also changed the caps to minimum 10% and maximum 90%.

– [art] New Rebellion report image.

– [interface] Civilized races which lost all planets are clearly marked as dormant and have diplomacy options disabled.
– [interface] Improved “Summon head of the house” and “Summon to investigate” tooltips, to make it more clear what it is used for.
– [interface] Military / High Command screen now show maximum squadrons and squadrons production (and loses, in a tooltip), similar to Squadrons screen.
– [interface] Made it more clear that F.E.D. income comes from both fiefs and colonies, also renamed the tab on finances to “F.E.D. Income” for consistency.
– [interface] Rulesets renamed to modes and made much more prominent on the News Game screen. Also renamed “Balanced” to “Imperial Mode” and “Hands Off” to “Throne Mode”.
– [interface] Improved New Game screen.
– [interface] Experimental feature (need to enable Experimental Features in Options) report notice buttons have a different color depending on report type.
– [interface] Most reports have a bigger text now (because there was space and bigger is better, especially on small monitors).
– [interface] Legislation and Research reports now have a button to access the appropriate screen (with [SPACE] hotkey).

– [fix] Small spelling corrections.
– [fix] Support reform option still appears when all reforms already completed (in Summon to discuss option only).
– [fix] Incorrect larvaes displayed on exactly one special planet (Early Access leftover).
– [fix] Civilized alien races asking for peace when when they have no planets anymore (aliens with no planets now are considered dormant/extinct).
– [fix] Meaningless and incorrect display “at War with Empire” on aliens overview screen next to Empire.
– [fix] Admiralition still sending forces to unclaimed planets, planets with withdraw order or planets controlled by a race you are at peace with in some circumstances.

You can follow my Steam Developer Page if you wish to be notified each time a new game or expansions is being released.

Also, if you have a moment to leave a Steam review of the game it would be appreciated. It makes a big difference to an indie developer like me. Thanks!

New content planned for Legends of Amberland II

After I wrote the “new features” piece it occurred to me that a similar one about “new content” is in order. After all, RPGs are not just about mechanics, they are also about the world, story, mood & feeling, exploration, quests, NPCs, items and so on.

New content introduced in the sequel

The sequel got a bunch of content related improvements. Music, art and a different, presumably better, approach to the locations and story construction. So, here it goes, the list of content related improvements.

That part of the game content would be the most significantly different, in short, music was totally redone. I have contracted a composer, Christopher Loza, to arrange a set of custom made tunes, made to fit the mood and feel of Amberland world. The instructions provided was to make it feel like tunes from those old games from the 90s era but at the some time without technical limitations of the era. I think it worked out great, while those who love 90s era RPGs would be delighted those who are not into it that much still will find it very decent. This also means that a soundtrack DLC is possible.

A bunch of improvements of existing tiles and new tiles as well. Animated portals, animated lava, new tile types for farmlands, more plants, flowers, gardens and so on.

Before I started designing the sequel, first I gathered all the feedback on the first Amberland I could. The conclusion was that overworld was awesome while dungeons were merely passable (with some weirdos saying dungeons were great, but I don’t believe it personally). So, I decided to strike it from both sides. First, strengthen the strong (which means making the player spend more time outdoors: bigger overworld, mixed indoor/outdoor locations, gardens inside location) and second to improve the weak (improving design of dungeons). Judging from the feedback gathered from the demo it seems it worked out well, now the consensus is the dungeons were significantly or greatly improved.

In addition I took a different approach to designing locations, before those were heavily gameplay focused (dungeons filled with monsters, bosses and treasures). Now I allowed a decent number of smaller locations intended for purpose of the mood of the game not gameplay. So there are some, even very tiny, locations which serve only as a mean to convey the lore, in places that are logical to have those (example: abandoned hideouts of sorcerers and the like).

There is also significantly more locations overall (but fear now, there are additional tools provided for players to keep track of it, like new tiny map of the overworld which makes navigating much easier).

The common criticism of the underground locations in the first Amberland as compared the ave of the overworld made me reexamine my approach to constructing those. Based on the demo feedback it seems that it worked out and those were greatly improved.

Environmental storytelling
Much higher priority was given to environmental storytelling. Like environment takes into considerations what should be where in relation to the world and story. In addition, there is now more reactivity of NPCs to changes (like: you kill the dragon and the people start to repopulate previously abandoned area which is safe now).

Story (lore, characters and plot)
The conclusion of the predecessor’s feedback analysis was that lore of the game world is awesome, no change needed at all, that NPC characters are very good, so again the same route should be taken and that plot is, well, the weakest part of it all. So, I redirected all efforts and focus to the plot part when it comes to story. First, I decided to do it 100% my way this time, without taking into account critics, worrying about cliche and the like, all this proved to be a way to nowhere previously. So, now I’m using the same approach as I had with lore and characters, I write it the way I like it and we will see how it turns out. Second, the story was split more evenly between NPCs to simplify interactions with individual character (I’m looking at you Royal Wizard, who have stolen half the camera time in the first Amberland).

The shift was made from using only predefined to a mix of predefined and randomly generated items. This alone provides much higher variety of items. While handcrafted items sound nice in theory, in practice a more algorithmic approach works better. In addition, it freed some mental energy resources of me as a developer which allowed to add more variety to the semi generated stuff.

In the first Amberland I was obsessed with removing the fat, to assure the game does not drag too long. To my surprise, no one complained the game was too long. Ever. So, now I’m taking a more relaxed approach, allowing some parts that do not have the optimal playtime to fun ratio. It seems that’s what basically all of you wish for. Of course this still means Amberland stays as one of the most compressed games in terms of removal of boring parts, that does not change. Overall, I think the total playtime will be longer than in the first one, but it’s just my guess at this point.

Special zones
I have experimented with special environmental and magical zones. Now ships require navigation skill to access some sea areas with strong wind, snow zones might have areas with extreme cold you need to prepare for and there are parts where magic work differently. This allowed me to craft outdoor zones which feel even more diverse.

Quests descriptions
I got several reports that people were sometimes confused where to go next in the predecessor. So, now all quests descriptions include the name of the area or location where you need to go (if it’s known of course) and the overworld sector designation.

There are also new monsters, dungeon features and probably some other minor stuff not listed above. Overall, I think you will see a significant improvement when it comes to locations and overall feel of the game compared to the predecessor.

New features planned for Legends of Amberland II

First, I wanted to stress out the design philosophy. There are no changes for the sake of changes. The game overall feels and plays the same. The changes are not revolutionary but evolutionary. Only features that actually improve the game, without destroying everything for the sake of novelty, were added.

New features in the sequel

The list below contains only features that are already implemented and tested. Those are not all the changes. But what is listed is guaranteed to be in the game.

Item suffixes
The whole items system was redesigned. Now items can have suffixes (like “Shield {of Fire Resistance}”) which greatly increases the diversity of items. In addition there are 3 quality tiers for items (so “Shield {of Fire Resistance} [II]” is better than “Shield {of Fire Resistance} [I]”, even though those share the same set of abilities). Also, the random treasures generator was rebalanced to give more equal ratio of various items. And the last thing, because people will ask, yes, there will be magic staves to be found.

There are 4 types of shops now. Regular shops which provide trivial items. Guild shops which provide random set of items, Pawn shop where you can sell and buy back unneeded items and Magic shop where they accept crystals only. Shops have separate stock on a per town basis and further towns have higher tier shops (better and more expensive items).

Resistances system
Now resistances are not 0/1 but are value based. So, as the monsters become tougher you need to obtain higher resistance values (with extra options for temporary boosts). Next, Acid was replaced with Sorcery which makes it more thematic and some resistances were merged (for a total of 8 resistances).

Towns as separate locations
Widely requested yet quite a simple thing, towns are now not as a menu but as full fledged maps you can explore.

There are party skills and trainers scatted around the world which teach such skills. Those provide nice bonuses and an excuse to explore the world even further.

New dungeon features
Extra features in dungeons like illusionary walls, doors locked by keys, etc.

More complex connections between locations
It might be not instantly visible to you as a player, but it’s very important for designing maps for me. Now there are two way exits from locations and inter locations portals. This allows me as a designer to make interesting topography like you enter a cave in one place and exit it in a completely different place on the overworld or you enter a portal in a tower and exit inside a dungeon on the other side of the map deep below ground.

Wells function the same as in the predecessor (healing), but fountains were redesigned and now grant temporary bonuses (resistances, attributes, etc).

Griffin travel rules change
There are subtle, yet important changes to the way travel via griffins work. For example, now griffin travel takes time, which effectively means you can not use it to go and visit every single spot with free buffs (because first temporary buffs will expire after a several griffin runs). Also, griffins can no longer land on lava or desert, making traversing dangerous terrain much more tricky.

Resting rules adjustment
You can no longer rest on lava, which combined with new griffin rules means that lava terrain becomes a real challenge. Oh yes, also now you can rest in inn without using food by paying the fee directly (which was requested like by everyone).

Map shows a tiny minimap with overworld
Now you can see the whole shape of the overworld at a glance by looking at a tiny map which was added on the full map. Very handy, you will love. Trust me.

Field of view extended (unfogging minimap)
Another small, yet highly requested feature. Now you don’t need to physically enter every single tile, surrounding will auto mark as “seen”. What’s best, the information what you visited physically is not lost since a tile is displayed differently if you visited it or merely saw it.

Magical barriers
Those were rebalanced and divided into three grades (with distinct graphics so you can clearly see the danger level of each barrier) now posing a much greater threat. Basically, those can wipe out an unprepared party and are used in locations to slow down your progress or even make you turn back. Lightning resistance is of high value now since it can greatly reduce the magical barriers damage. Overall, now magical barriers are a serious threat which will make you reconsider how you explore dungeons.

Small adjustments that go well together
There are other small changes which bring synergy, for example drinking from fountains takes one hour which combined with the added time for griffin travel and the fact that temporary buffs expire at midnight let you use griffin to visit 2-3 fountains before an important fight but not to visit any number of those. At the same time drinking from wells (healing) takes mere minutes so it can be used as an effective local healing in a series of fights without the fear of expiring party bonuses.

Many small improvements
There are many other small things not mentioned here. Additional art assets, animations for portals, etc.

Possible other features
Since only things that are already implemented and tested were listed above it means there are decent odds those are not all the changes that will end up in the final game.

Stellar Monarch 2 version 1.14

Version 1.14 released

This version is a quality of life update, based on the feedback gathered from the forums and Discord. First of all, I realized many players use modernizations in a different way I anticipated, so some extra features to make manipulation of those easier is in order. Next, various small features like time to research, mass orders for unclaimed planets, etc were implemented. In addition there is now a high score section on the main menu (similar to the one from the first Stellar Monarch) and one measly bug fix.

– [feature] High Score table.

– [interface] Research screen lists research points needed to research the current technology and how many turns it will take.
– [interface] Mass order to claim/abandon claims to all uninhabited planets.
– [interface] Military/Ships modernization screen allows to Uninstall/Install modernizations one by one.
– [interface] Military/Ships total modernizations installed tooltip lists all currently installed modernizations.
– [interface] Military/Ships install modernization buttons list the cost (for easier planning).

– [fix] Minimap mouse coordinates.

You can follow my Steam Developer Page if you wish to be notified each time a new game or expansions is being released.

Also, if you have a moment to leave a Steam review of the game it would be appreciated. It makes a big difference to an indie developer like me. Thanks!

Progress report – Legends of Amberland II – 2023, Q2

So, the quarter almost ends, therefore, it’s time for the quarterly progress report. Overall, it all goes smoothly, but with unexpected delays, so pretty boring and standard I would say. Coding in almost done, the game went into internal alpha testing and a demo was made for the Steam Next Fest. Due to the need for testing and demo release I adjusted my plans and started making content earlier than originally planned, so the starting continent is basically playable and even a bit polished (but not 100% finished yet).

What was done
All core features were implemented, well, a few are still missing but those are minor. There are several more new features I would like to see, but those are not critical. Actually, I could finish the code in like a week now, so what’s left is content. I have created the first game zone with a bunch of locations (it seems there will be more locations than in the first Amberland, but smaller ones, it just feel more lively that way, also those locations are more thematic).

Porting progress
I was told that all technical problems were successfully dealt with and that the alpha version of the game works on target consoles flawlessly and at a required speed. So, it seems the game will be released on other consoles than Nintendo Switch this time. But there will be a separate announcement about it with exact details later.

Alpha testing conclusions
There was a build made for a limited number of trusted testers. There were several iterations of the build, with fixes, feedback on new features and the like (BTW, thanks to all my testers! It’s a real pleasure making a game this way!), it all seems solid now.

Demo conclusions
That was surprising, but the reception of the demo was very good, way better than I anticipated. It was released on 7th June, a few weeks before Steam Next Fest and it included the first continent with surrounding islands. Exactly one bug was reported so far, which makes me very happy. At first I was worried about the new features and the changes introduced, but it seems it all worked out very well. I observed that the people who had some objections to those features during Alpha, revoked those objections after playing the demo. In short, it all seems ready to go without any redesign… which is a new thing to me, it never happened before, not that I complain of course.

Originally, I planned for a release somewhere around this summer, but as I was talking with partners I kind of got convinced to simultaneous launch for all platforms. Which is not guaranteed/decided yet, but I think, it’s worth to give it a try. Therefore, in such scenario, the safest date would be late Q4, mostly due to the need of localization, QA, submissions and so on. But we will see, for now the official release date stays “somewhere in 2023”.

Legends of Amberland II demo is out!

Demo for the sequel to Legends of Amberland is available on Steam!

Demo for Legends of Amberland II: The Song of Trees is available on Steam starting today. It features the first part of the storyline including the starting continent with the surrounding islands, multiple towns, castles, towers, dungeons, caves and several overland biomes. Our second journey to Amberland also introduces new mechanics and new items. Enjoy and make sure to wishlist! 

Post here comments about the demo (Steam forums)

Trailer for Legends of Amberland II available!

The final trailer for Legends of Amberland II: The Song of Trees is available. Is shows gameplay, user interface and introduces a new soundtrack from the game.

Quick info:
Genre: Party-based RPG, Dungeon Crawler, Open World, Oldschool
Release date: 2023
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG) and consoles (Nintendo Switch and possibly other)

Progress report – Legends of Amberland II – 2023, Q1


This is a very unusual project for me. It’s not the first sequel I made but the first sequel to an RPG. Which makes a tons of difference. Typically (read always) the bottleneck is coding. You track bugs, implement features, etc. But with a sequel to an RPG it is a totally different story. RPGs are content driven, so, once you have a solid code base not that much changes actually in the programming department. In short, this project is made quite differently to all my previous projects.

To take this specific situation into account, development was divided into two projects. Project “A” which is about technical improvements (coding) and project “B” which is about making the actual game (content). The first is made using a mix between evolutionary prototyping and a research project methodology, the second using the old classic waterfall model.

What is done

Again, the unusual thing is that a lot was done before the project officially started. I ordered art assets and music from contractors, so they were experimenting and producing some content without my direct involvement. So, quite a lot was ready before it even started. Which is super nice.

The other nice thing is the source code, which is like 95% (probably) identical to the first Amberland. I was polishing the original source code for a few years, in extend beyond the simple support of an existing game, in order to keep the code as similar as possible for as long as possible. So, actually, art of the coding for the sequel was done before the project officially started. Note that 5% difference might sound like not a lot but it’s actually quite significant (to put it into a perspective bananas share 44.1% of genome with humans, yup). Basically, the game was extended and polished before it started (note for example the full gamepad support, dozens of tiny fixes, save system redesign, etc) and part of it was done in order to speed up future porting to other platforms.

So, what actually was done after the project was officially announced? Well, first all experimental assets were evaluated and it was decided what will be put into the game, analysis of the first game was made (part of it was listed in other posts and the coding started. The aim, and the top priority, was to produce better tools for me, to speed up development. A big part of it was reimplementation of the map structure to abstract entities (now you don’t put “tile with a tree” but abstract “tree” shape of variant #3). Which might sound boring and unimportant but is a huge help, since it allows a lot flexibility and convenience for me as a designer. The second priority was the editor. It was redesigned and simplified (and even there was a budget to add some frills), now I have even a cutting edge feature called “Undo” which is super fun since it’s the first time even any of my editor has it!

All right, lets talk a bit about features that are visible to you as a player. The code of map navigation was extended and now it allows things like “alternative entries to locations”, “mixed indoor/outdoor locations”, “portals leading inside other locations”. Which allows some interesting topography and connections between locations to be made. New tile types were introduced (like farmlands), stationary NPCs, more huts and more other things. Some extra dungeon features like doors locked by keys, illusionary walls, etc.

The big thing which was redesigned was resistances system and items. Now resistances have values (for example: Ring of Fire Resistance +10, Ring of Fire Resistance +20) and items can have suffixes “Helmet {of something}”. In the first game all items were hand crafted, which was a noble effort which proven not so great. Now I switched to predefined hand crafted unique items and semi-randomised regular items. Basically it means higher variation of items you find. As a bonus, because now I had more time freed up I could spend it implementing extra item properties (like “Invisibility” or “Heroism”) which were put as item suffixes. The random loot table was redesigned as well to provide a fixed chance for a certain item type (for example now 30% of loot will be weapons, regardless of how many items were “defined”) which means now various item types will have more or less equal chance of dropping so there should not be overabundance of certain items. And yes, because some people will ask, this also means extra staves for mages, actually there are now three basic types of staves so you even will have a choice what kind of magical staff to equip.

In addition to all those features I half made the first (starting) continent to see and test all those new features, I have a rough shape of the overworld map and the core storyline was told to my son before going to bed several times (several variants and iterations). Oh yes, also a small alpha test is in progress, so I can get early feedback and reevaluate what works and what not.

And some other things which are not listed here.


The project “A” is coming to an end soon, I think. Editor is almost done (just a few features I wish to have before I start to churn regular content). All critical/major systems which were to be redesigned are implemented or almost implemented. So soon I should be ready to start project “B”, and in the meantime or afterwards I will probably spend some time to implement some extra stuff.

Overall, the progress is good. Actually, when the core development is not about coding it’s almost boring, because nothing breaks… Before this project I never realized how expensive and troublesome the coding part is. It turns out that if you have a solid code base and no major features to code it is actually kind of like a walk in the part… at last that’s how it feels right now (or maybe that’s just my impression because my previous project was super feature heavy Stellar Monarch 2, so it’s a striking contrast), we will see. So far, everything is going fine and I see no danger of exceeding the 2023 deadline (actually I would unofficially speculate it should be ready somewhere this summer).

Stellar Monarch version 1.48

Version 1.48 released

Maintenance update. Libraries upgraded to the newest version. Not that there were any problems with the older libraries but just in case. It’s also more convenient if all games use the same low level routines. Oh yes, also one measly low priority non critical bug was fixed. So, basically, nothing to see, move along.

– [misc] Updated third party libraries to the newest version.

– [fix] ESC key now always closes any open confirmation window (a small cosmetic UI thing).