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History of Zero k?

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17 months ago
So how did Zero k began as an idea? How did the devs meet up and where did this game come from? It seems to be the devs are very multinational so how did you all decide to work together and make this? What were the design choices and goals? What were your initial expectations for this project of yours and how are they right now? (you didn't seriously expect it to reach this big did you back?)
+5 / -0
17 months ago
also very interested in it
+2 / -0
It's all incremental. Here's some ancient history; some dates might be wrong.

1997: a commercial game, Total Annihilation, is released (by Cavedog Entertainment, led by Chris Taylor). It introduces a lot of concepts such as physically simulated weapons and streaming economy. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is highly moddable.

1998: UberHack is created by BraveSirRobin. It is a simple mod for TA with some design changes (like anti-air only targetting planes) and fixes, and becomes a popular base for other modders' work. A lot of standalone units start being created and distributed over the TA community, usually in various unit packs.

1999: TA Demo Recorder is created by a clan called Swedish Yankspankers. It is basically a mod that allows to record games and play them back (something the retail game lacked).

2001: Swedish Yankspankers figure out that TA has orthogonal camera and no ability to rotate it, which makes TA's 3D world look 2D. They decide to evolve the demo recorder into a 3D engine able to use TA content.

2001: Absolute Annihilation (AA) is created by Caydr. It is a decently popular TA unit pack mod based on UberHack.

2004: first public release of Swedish Yankspankers' engine, by this time called TASpring (which eventually became just Spring). There's a separate infrastructure from TA (including a lobby server that makes it easy to play different mods). AA is ported to Spring and becomes the #1 most popular mod there. People learn about Spring from TA communities.

2006(ish): Balanced Annihilation (BA) is forked from AA (by Noize), focusing on competitive 1v1 play. Also quickly becomes the #1 mod because the author of AA left.

2007: AUrankAdminSaktoth is amazed after some noob pwns him in 1v1 BA with 1 Dart by driving around his factory. "Wow, you can do that!?". Decides to make a mod where physical unit interactions are important, forking BA to create Complete Annihilation (CA), and gathers a bunch of enthusiastic players to help (these are just Spring players he met in the lobby, mostly). ITrankAdmin[LCC]quantum[0K] helps with game design (they come up with the idea of unit roles and balancing guidelines to keep units unique); CZrankAdminLicho creates autohosts that ease keeping the mod played and USrankdetrino designs an update system which automatically downloads game updates, which allows very quick development. DErank[LCC]jK creates the GUI framework and USrankAdminCarRepairer creates GUI. MYrankAdminHistidine (aka KingRaptor) contributes in all areas. CA is where ZK really got its identity.

2010: AUrankAdminGoogleFrog proposes a redesign of CA (merging CA's two factions into one and flattening the tech tree, alongside the needed factory changes). This becomes ZK. CZrankAdminLicho creates further infrastructure (website, later on the server) which lets ZK become a standalone game.
+28 / -0

17 months ago
PLrankAdminSprung : you didn't mention yourself in this picture, where and when were you introduced to the game and started contributing?
+3 / -0

17 months ago
I initially found CA as a player in 2008 because I saw it in the lobby and got curious (also people spammed #main every few minutes about it so it was hard to miss).

I started contributing in 2013 because I got annoyed that Jethro helptext doesn't say that it can cloak and nobody else would bother fixing this.
+7 / -0
Apparently Spring was originally named Spring, before it was renamed to TA Spring.

+2 / -0
First threads about CA ?
(Interesting, http://caspring.org/ is working again ?)

CA featured alongside other games in a Spring trailer :

Spring source code timelapse :

"Thanks to an intrepid inside source, we have access to previously-secret footage of the Zero-K developer team discussing the game's story." :

Zero-K goes multitouch :

Planet Wars !

Zero-K units have loved ones too !
+4 / -0
I just came across this thread and thought I'd add a few things.

2010 (just to add to what PLrankAdminSprung wrote): The tech tree was already flat in CA. The switch to ZK was less a redesign and more a way to remove the last of the OTA models inherited from BA. The bot factories had already been diversified and were reasonably well covered by models in CA, but the vehicle and aircraft factories had a lot of double up and old models. The 1faction fork started off as a crazy idea to skip all this work but then gained traction. ZK started with:
  • Four bot factories, shuffled around from CA to lean into the cloak/shield/spider/jump differentiation that was already being developed. There were many proposals and deciding on the best was tricky.
  • Three vehicle factories, which were relatively straightforward to create. The handful of interesting Arm units were made into hovercraft (kitbashes by AUrankAdminSaktoth of Scifi's hovers), while the Mr. D models carried on as Tank and Rover (previously just called Light Vehicles).
  • Two air factories, which were just a rotation and merge of the unique units from the mixed CA air factories.
  • A ship factory, made up of the models that existed and left to be dealt with later.
  • Most of the Striders we have today. There were more, but they tended to be duplicates and lacked models. I recall there being a laser+emg strider very similar to Dante, and long ranged tacnuke nuke artillery for the corresponding role of Merlin. These units can probably be found in BAR.
Amphbots were added around 2011-2012.

I think the initial motivation was inclusion in linux distros (there were more linux people around back then). This was also about the time we switched from caspring hosted svn to google code svn. The switch to ZK and google code lost us a fair number of contributors (some hated google), but we had previously lost people who couldn't see CA removing the OTA content any time soon, so there was a tradeoff.

2012(ish): Zero-K splits off to its own infrastructure after disagreement with infrastructure developers. From my perspective they were very stubborn regarding extending the protocol to allow for new stuff (Eg matchmacking, more advanced planetwars) and would make sudden changes that broke our autohosts.

2013-2014: Evolution RTS is greenlit on Steam and released in 2014. I don't think Steam was on my radar at the time, but now it looked like a possibility. Looking back at the dates we actually put up a greenlight campaign five days after the Evolution RTS release.

Zero-K was greenlit, although opinions varied on when or what sort of release we should go for. I thought there was a lot of work to do before ZK looked like a real game, given how poorly the IRC+BattleRoom paradigm of old Spring fared for the initial Evolution RTS release. We were on a bit of a time limit though, since active developers were dwindling to low single-digit numbers, and the playerbase was dropping off with little influx from Spring or advertising.

2015-2017: A lot of polish work that isn't necessarily interesting for people who started out playing then contributing to a multiplayer RTS. Campaign, matchmaking, tutorials, AI, UI, optimisation etc... There was still a bit of time to do easier and more fun stuff. JPrankgajop saved us with the lua framework for the lobby, as that let me pick it up and write most of the lobby myself, freeing up CZrankAdminLicho's time.

2018: We seemed about ready, so we released on Steam about four years after greenlight. Steam was a lot more crowded after four years, but I think we did ok out of it. The impetus to make ZK look like a game, with polish and singleplayer, was also an important result of Steam. It also provides an easy install process.

2020(ish): I decide (or at least decide to act on the theory) that longevity comes from modding, restarting the process that kicked it off (sort of) 23 years ago. Attempts are made to efficiently use our limited manpower to better support modding. Luckily Spring is built on this sort of stuff, so it just required a bit of infrastructure and lobby work.

2021: Here is what we look after a decade.

"daily unique players" is the number of unique accounts that were a player in a game that ended up generating a replay (ie no spectators, singleplayer, or exited games). Each point is the average of 28 days.

The bump in March 2020 is an aberration that appeared to affect many games. No need to dwell on it.
+11 / -0