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Alex Vostrov's blog

11:00 PM on 06.28.2011

Let's Play Infested Planet On Video!

I put together a "Let's Play" for Infested Planet. It does a good job showing you what the game is about. Check it out here:


5:19 PM on 06.25.2011

First Infested Planet Patch

Welcome to the first ever Infested Planet Patch Day! This one’s mostly about housekeeping. If the game works for you and everything’s great then this one doesn’t matter too much. Some of you have been having problems, so I’ve been coding like crazy today. Here’s what’s on the menu:

- Fixed garbled background texture on Macs (hopefully; email me if the bug’s still there)
- Fixed crash if you quit a menu and wiggled the mouse together
- Moved the apply button higher in the options menu, to prevent being stuck
- Ruins and abyss no longer unlock all research by default
- On Windows, save files have been moved to the user folder

How do I get the patch?

Use the download link from the email that you got when you bought the game. You’ll get a new version of it – 0.51.

How do I carry over my save?

If you’re on PC, then you’ll need to manually copy over your save file to the new folder. It’s in C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Local\Rocket Bear Games\Infested Planet. Run the game once to have it create the folder.

Take pref.xml and campaignSave.xml and drag them over to the new folder. Now you’re all set!   read

11:19 PM on 06.22.2011

Infested Planet Hits Beta

The beta is finally here. You don't have to read about me playing the game, you can do it yourself! Anyone who preorders the game instantly gets in on the beta.

Think of Infested Planet kind of like Starship Troopers: The Game. You take a squad of 5 marines and mop the floor with 100,000 aliens. In the process, you shoot lots of bullets and paint the floor purple with alien blood.

If that sounds interesting, hop over to the game site to check out the trailer and to preorder.


3:05 PM on 06.03.2011

Infested Planet Beta Soon!

Big news guys! I announced Infested Planet a year ago, not suspecting how much work was ahead of me. I thought that I could get it all done in 3 months – hah! Well, that journey is almost over.

On June 21st you will be able to play the game yourself. Everyone who pre-orders the game (at a discount) will be able to download the latest version and see what all the fuss is about.

Greg Wohlwend and I have been working very hard on this game. I look forward to the day when I can share it with you.

Oh and don't forget that you can follow the development of the game on  It's usually more current than this blog.   read

10:50 PM on 05.25.2011

Let's Play Infested Planet!

Welcome to the first Infested Planet battle report. This is the story of a random game that I played yesterday. I decided to play at "Master" level, to make things interesting.

I've taken lots of juicy screenshots to illustrate what happened. Click them to zoom in.

This is our randomly generated map. Looks like the random generation gods have gone easy on me today, since the basic strategy for this map seems easy to figure out. My plan is to knock out the bases on top and bottom of me and then steamroll down the middle.

The first question that I have to answer - how am I going to defend my initial base? I have a couple of choices. I can leave a member of my squad, I can construct a defensive turret or I can upgrade my base bunker to shoot at enemies. I don't like the idea of leaving my attack team short on soldiers, so I'm going to build a turret.

With that matter settled, I'm going to head north to destroy the aliens there and plunder their resources. With what I've left, I make a fusion rifleman. It's not much, since I used most of my build points on the turret, but it helps.

As it happens, taking out this hive is pretty easy. There is a crate full of ammo points next to it, so I can toss grenades and then immideately get back the ammo from the crate. The first hive quickly goes down and I get the delicious resources when I capture the point.

It's here that a slight misfortune strikes. The alien hive that I attacked specialised in ranged poison attacks and my team was dead or poisoned when I captured the point.

This gave me some extra resources to play with, so I thought that I'd be clever and upgrade one of the remaining soldiers to a medic. Well, as it happens, the aliens mutated "Virulence" - a mutation that prevents the healing of poisoned soldiers. I noticed this too late and everyone dies.

Thankfully, this is early in the game and I don't have to defend that much territory. My team respawns quickly and I'm ready to attack the base below me. I research "Regeneration" to allow my marines to slowly gain back health.

Now, this will require a little bit of finesse. Their base is protected by an infested shield generator. This means that if I just went in with my team from before, they'd barely make a scratch. I'm going to need something to take out that generator - like a sniper.

I don't have enough resources for a sniper though, so I have to tweak things a bit. I sell my defensive turret, since my team can protect that area anyway. I could have sold the "Regeneration" research, but I thought that I would need it up ahead.

With its generator down, the hive goes down in a barrage of grenades and machine gun fire. For my efforts, I get some more build points and the aliens get a nasty mutation - "Mimicry". This one's pretty evil. Every time I kill an enemy hive, it leaves behind mimic eggs. These can hatch into clones of my team, if I let them live. Yikes!

The good news is that the alien base has a resource crate nearby. I'm going to tow it back to base and buy some more hardware. My general plan is to parry the enemy attackers with a turret and then swoop in on the side.

I sell my sniper and buy 3 fusion rifles. These guys are good against crowds, which is something that I'll need up ahead. As I charge down the middle of the map, there's a small barrier.

A proto-hive is sitting in between me and the next point. It's no match for my team and we rip it to shreds with well-aimed fusion bolts. Those proto-hives can be dangerous at a distance since they spawn reinforcements, but they're wimpy up close.

I tweak my team to include a sniper and stomp all over the next hive. It seems that the random generator really liked me, because right to the next hive rest two build point crates. Once I get them, things will be a lot easier and I'll be swimming in cash.

And the hive explodes in a shower of purple!

As a last-minute complication, it leaves behind three mimic eggs. Because of this nasty mutation, I lose my sniper to clone attacks. While he's being brought back to life, I kill the towers guarding the goodie crates and drag them to base.

Pumped up with my new resources, I immideately attack and capture the point below the current one. It's the first of a chain that's soon going to give me lots of trouble. For now, I'm doing pretty well and I use my new resources to secure the area that I've just captured.

I'm going to need more resources to take on the next hive, so I look for things to recycle. I decide that I can hold the advancing horde where I'm standing. I sell all the other defenses that I made and purchase a team of 6 fusion rifles. That's going to pack a punch.

I also invest heavily into technology. I buy tech that allows me to toss more grenades, gives me an extra soldier (up from 5) and disperses damage among the whole team.

As things stand, I really need that last tech. The aliens have evolved "Sharp Spikes" and "Hardpoints". Now their spit towers will do damage right away, instead of just poisoning me. To make it worse, they get the ability to grow structures that deploy more spit towers. The dispersion technology should give me a measure of protection against their attacks.

Having countered their mutations with my technology I descend upon my next objective.

Here's where it gets tricky. I get the point, but the job is only half-done. Its sibling is still pumping out swarms of aliens in my direction. What's worse, I come within the field of fire of an infested siege cannon. This is going to make my life much more difficult.

I decide to make a tactical retreat and to attack from the flank. I'm a bit worried about the aliens growing hardpoints out there.

While I'm occupied with the battle on the western flank, the aliens retake the location I just captured. Looks like I was overconfident in the effectiveness of that lone turret that I plopped down. Worse, I didn't even destroy the hardpoint in this debacle.

I swivel back to the lost point and rush to recapture it.

Fortunately, my veteran team quickly cuts through the newly built hive. If I had waited longer, then it would have regrown its defenses and I'd be in some trouble. I finally face the fact that I'll have to deal with the hive that's two steps away and that infernal siege cannon. I focus my efforts on cracking those defenses.

My new plan works perfectly and I make a turret to celebrate. The question now is whether I want to head north or south. Still smarting from my retreat from the western flank, I decide to finish what I started.

Since I have more build points to play with, I upgrade one of my guys to a flamethrower. They can be deadly up close and I'm going to need their fire to get through the shell of the hardpoint.

Over the next couple of minutes I spar with the aliens. They try to sneak past my defenses to my unprotected bases, but I kill them with my team. I rack up another small success and kill the hardpoint that's been blighting the western flank.

While all of this is going on, the aliens punch trough my eastern frontier and take back my point. I have to turn around and push them back into their slimy hole.

Clearly, my current approach isn't going to work. I'm nervous about the western flank, so I'd like to make a push from that direction. Still, it's obvious that I can't leave the east to fend for itself. I could leave some soldiers there to prop up the defenses, but I dislike weakening my team.

I decide to sell my two flamethrowers and to buy the "AP Grenade" technology. This gives all advanced units and turrets free grenades to toss at the enemy. I still have to use ammo to kill buildings with grenades, but I'll have less trouble with crowds. At this point I've researched all but one of the available technologies. I'm the science king!

Now that my turrets can handle themselves a bit better, I charge down to the southern hive.

Using a team of 6 fusion rifles, I smash their defenses, though at a heavy price.

My entire team is completely poisoned. Their health dripping down, I know that I only have a few seconds before they all die. I decide to dive in for the point that I'm attacking. I might have saved the team by retreating, especially since I have that regeneration tech, but I choose not to.

The advantage of pushing forward is that I can get the resources from capture, even if I lose the point afterwards.

My team is dead. The site of their demise is marked with 6 mimic eggs. This is the effect of a previous mutation - "Necrophage". Thankfully, my dispersal tech meant that they all died at the same instant. Otherwise, it would have been a ton of trouble to fight mimics as each soldier died.

While my team respawns, the aliens send a strike team through a crack in my defenses. I manage to catch them when I get my soldiers back. and disaster is averted.

At this point, I have to decide on my next plan of attack and I choose to finish off the hive in the north. I was a bit reluctant to go so far from my main defenses, but there are compelling reasons for the attack. The main argument is that I'd be fighting one hive up there versus two in the south. I could kill it, consolidate my defensive perimiter and win the game.

Before I do that, I need to make sure that nobody's going to sneak through again. I can't afford to split my team to fight infiltrators again. I decide to firm up my defenses in the west. Thus begins a comical and almost tragic misadventure.

The first thing that I do is reposition the old turret to cover the bottleneck better. Nobody's going to creep past this time.

Then I get the brilliant idea to put a minefield in the path of the advancing horde. This will make sure that nothing can pass through that area. I foolishly decide to send one marine on a suicide run to build the minefield. Thinking that I'm just going to run in and out, I forget about the mimic eggs that were left over from my previous death.

You can guess what happens - the mimics hatch and copy the form of my fusion rifleman. I'm in a pretty bad spot right now. If things get worse, the mimics could blow though my defenses and undo all my work. On top of that. I could also lose my entire team. Even though it's only one soldier getting attacked, his health is linked to the rest of my team through the dispersal technology that I've been using.

I run for my life with the mimics after me.

Thankfully, the turret that I had up north shreds the mimics to bits. As it happens, fusion rifles are iffy against small, single targets like a turret. Also, my turret can regenerate health and shoot grenades due to my technology. So in the end, I probably did myself a favour. Those mimic eggs were going to be trouble later, and taking them out was a good idea.

I decide to build the minefield much closer up and resume my original plan to capture the northern hive.

Things work out perfectly. I pounce on the northern point, get its resources, and run back to destroy the two remaining points in the south. The aliens give me a bit of trouble, but it's nothing that retreating and healing up can't solve. At this point I've gathered so much resources that I'm unstoppable.

I punch through the last two points, ignoring the other side's feeble attempts to mutate their way out of the box that they're in.

Victory! I managed to defeat my slimy opposition in 17 minutes. 16,596 bullets were fired in the production of this battle report and 34,156 aliens were blown to purple bits. Their spokesperson couldn't be reached for comment.

I hope that you liked this report. I want to do a couple more before the release of the trailer. Things would have gone very differently if the map that was generated was more sprawling in nature. Also, I didn't even use the majority of my weapons, due to the mutations that were thrown at me.

I hope that you check out the next report when I post it.   read

12:23 PM on 05.12.2011

Infested Planet Relaunch

I'm back from hibernation everyone! For those of you who didn't read the previous posts, this blog is where I talk about my upcoming game "Infested Planet". I took a bit of a break, because I was busy working on the game. Now the game is close to being done and I'm ready to talk about it again.

Let's get started. A lot has happened since the last post and the game has changed quite a bit. Ive decided to start from the beginning, so that people who havent been following the games development all this time can find out why its neat.

What is Infested Planet?

Let me talk about why I find the game cool. First and foremost, Infested Planet is a game about exciting tactical skirmishes. Its about fighting against incredible odds and coming out on top. Thats what happens when you land on a planet with 5 marines and blow the heck out of 10000 aliens.

Its hard to describe how strangely compelling it is to mow down a 1000 bugs with a minigun. Youll just have to take my word for it.

You remember that moment in your favourite RTS game? Youve built up a powerful force, smashed through the enemys defences and your soldiers are closing in on the heart of their base. Thats the feeling that Infested Planet captures striking hard at the enemy and blowing up their stuff.

For me, that moment is when youre rampaging through a Zerg base in Starcraft with a horde of space marines. I tried to take that feeling and amplify it many times over.

Once you learn the basics, Infested Planet is about shrewd tactics and squeezing that little bit more out of your resources. Its about looking at the battlefield and making a strategic decision to abandon a position for better ground. Its about seeing through your enemys strengths and picking a tool that punches them right in the gut.

Finally, Infested Planet is about unpredictability. The game was built from the ground up to be extremely replayable. The enemy dynamically evolves and mutates, giving you new challenges every time. Ive been working on it for more than a year, and I still get pulled into trying to finish off a mission when I should be coding.

Whats Next?

Since Im rebooting my efforts to talk about the game, Ive decided to take a different approach this time. This game is pretty personal for me Ive spent a year of my life on it! Strangely, I dont think that Ive ever talked about why I find the game exciting. I talked as a game developer and not a game player.

From now on, Im going to talk about what its like to play the game. My next post will be an action report from a random game that Ill run. That should give you a good impression of why Infested Planet is unique and compelling.   read

5:51 PM on 10.03.2010

Infested Planet - Technician Design Evolution

Since the last post I made about the fusion rifleman design was interesting to some people, I've decided to do something like this with another new unit. A while ago I added a Technican class that protects your team, but it took several tries to get things right. I thought that I'd tell you about the evolution of the new class here.


The way the final version works is by protecting all your units in a particular area. Your units can still be damaged, but there's a maximum rate at which they can by hurt. In other words, the Technician guarantees a certain amount of fighting time for your team.

Let's look at a real example.

Let's say that you want to capture the alien hive on the left, what would you do?

If you just run in there with your soldiers, the infested siege cannon that's guarding the hive will rip the team to shreds.

With a technician supporting the team, though, you can shrug off the siege cannon fire. He projects force fields that deflect the cannon shells back towards the enemy and protect your troops. You still take damage, but at a much slower rate. This gives the team enough time to kill the hive and later the cannon itself.

Now let's look at how I got to the Technician concept.


When I was working on Infested Planet early on, I added a medic class. The medic stayed around for months, but I never felt that he was all that useful. He wasn't useless, just somewhat mediocre.

A couple of months ago, I finally decided to rework the medic class into something more interesting.

Invulnerability Projector

A while ago, I experimented with adding a temporary invulnerability skill to Infested Planet. This was something that you could apply to your troops. For a while, they would run around the map, shrugging off all damage. That didn't feel right to me - it was too powerful, but I did keep the ability to make things invulnerable.

My first shot at reforming the medic was to remake him into a protector class. There would be a large circle around the unit where your troops would be invulnerable. He'd zap people with his field projector if they got damaged to protect them. To balance this, I added a "heat" meter to the projector. If it was used too much, it would stop working for a while.

My intent was to make the new unit provide endurance to the team. This was something that you could use to get into long firefights with the enemy. The idea was good on paper, but when I put it into the game, it ruined everything.

The game became too easy. Yes, you had to manage the heat meter, but while it was green you could run around zombie crowds with no harm. The field projector drained all tension and conflict from the game. I knew that I couldn't keep it as it was.

Reflective Shield

I thought that if I took steps to add danger back to the mix, then the new class would be more fun. To do this, I made two changes. First, I shortened the field range by quite a bit, so that the guardian couldn't hang back from the battle and zap people from safety. The second thing that I did was change the field mechanics.

After trying the invulnerability field, I thought that I was a bit too bland. Yes, you were invulnerable, but so what? I wanted something with a bit more oomph.

I changed the field projector the a reflective circle around the new unit. Any projectile that entered the circle would bounce back, toward the enemy. Conceptually, I liked the idea. It was an offensive ability, which should make it more exciting. The other thing is that it left some weaknesses in the unit - you could still attack via melee and get some hits in.

The idea was interesting, but still too powerful. Most dangerous attacks in the game are ranged. By blocking all of them, things still felt too safe. I went back to the drawing board.


My final idea was to combine the two prototypes and to change the way the invulnerability worked. Before, it would make you completely unkillable. I changed things so that it would "filter" damage. A little bit of damage would still go through, but a giant amount would get blocked. This made the field really useful against overwhelming weapons such as infested cannons, but less powerful in ordinary situations.

The other change I made is that invulnerable units sometimes reflected bullets back at the attacker. This allows you to trick enemy cannons into shooting their own friends.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my final version. I solved the problem of power and made the technician interesting to use. The only things that I might tweak are the graphical effects. Right now it's a placeholder red beam that shoots from the technician to a friend. This doesn't make it feel like the technician is having a huge effect. I'll tweak the graphics so that they feel more impressive.   read

2:15 AM on 09.10.2010

Infested Planet - Fusion Rifle Design

I play with Infested Planet a lot. I don't mean playing the game (I do a lot of that too). A lot of times I'll spend a day tweaking particular unit or ability in the game, making it feel just right. That's the story with a new weapon type that I added - the fusion rifle. I just spent a couple of days making how those guys work perfect.

It all started with me feeling that there was a hole in the marine lineup. There were a lot of powerful specialists, but the basic marine felt rather obsolete in the mid-game. I have a strong aversion to "same thing but bigger" upgrades, so I set out to design something that would act roughly like the rifleman, but be distinct.

Attempt 1 - Walking Siege Cannon

My first idea was to give the rifleman the same bullet type that siege cannons use - powerful explosive bolts. I called them "fusion rifles" and we were in business. The idea of ripping through crowds of enemies with explosive bullets felt right in my head. Unfortunately, when I coded it up I quickly saw a problem.

Why wouldn't I want to use these new fusion guys? They quickly ground through anything in their path. I planned for the fusion rifle to be the cheapest weapon, just one level above the freebie auto-rifle. Obviously, I couldn't make it some sort of planet-killer gun. I had to add some sort of disadvantage.

I settled on two things - the fusion guys couldn't use grenades and they ran out of juice. Basically, I saw these guys as sprinters and not marathon runners. You'd sweep in with a team of fusion riflemen and blow stuff up while you had the power. I experimented with lowering their rate of fire with time, but settled with taking away their explosions after the initial fight.

At this point I went to sleep, not quite happy with the feeling of the new weapon.

Attempt 2 - Flip it Around

Just before I fell asleep, I got a great idea for fixing the fusion rifle. I'd try flipping it around - instead of getting weaker with time, the riflemen would warm up and become more powerful. I jumped out of bed and wrote the thought down, briefly considering coding until the morning to make it happen. In the end, I decided to sleep on it.

The idea turned out to be good, but a bit annoying. I ran a lot of tests, timing how long it took for the new riflemen to capture hives, when compared to other weapons. I even had spreadsheets with precise comparison tests. My tests showed a problem in the new setup.

The best thing to do was to wait until fusion mode kicked in and then to run forward. It still felt like a more powerful version of the rifleman and the mode switch was just a gimmick. Every time you were kicked back to the "normal" mode, it felt like the units were weakened.

Attempt 3 - Edgecraft

I decided to take the new design and to really push it to the edge. There are two main changes that I made to the previous version.

- The "cooled down" mode was given 50% more range, making it a mini-sniper rifle
- The fusion mode had its range chopped down to have ultra-short range, but with amazing damage

The effect, as I anticipated was rather interesting. The fusion riflemen would engage the enemy at long range and then switch to fusion mode for explodey fun.

What I got in the end is a sort of futuristic berserker. When the riflemen are cooled down, they are good for picking off targets from long range and skirmishing. When they really get in trouble, though, they go nuts and start exploding everything in range. Of course, since their range is really small, you really have to jump into the thick of things. They tend to either kill the opposition of die in a blaze of glory.

I really like the final result. It's roughly balanced, distinct from the auto-rifle and useful in both modes. I think that I went through 10 or 20 different micro-versions of the fusion rifle in the two days to achieve this. The funny thing is that you'll never see the stuff that I've taken out of the game, because it didn't measure up. I should do a post about that sometime - the 90% of the game that you'll never play.   read

3:44 PM on 09.05.2010

Infested Planet - Replays and Random Maps

I heard that Attack of the Paper Zombies was mentioned at a PAX panel. Thanks to whoever did it! Yay! Now a bit about how the game is doing.

Ive spent the last week working out the bugs in the random map generation. Since the switch to a polygon-based map, I had to throw in some semi-complicated algorithms into the mix. For example, I have to be able to merge the outlines of two polygons quickly and without errors. It workedsort of. These algorithms have to be implemented fairly carefully, because they can blow up in special cases.

Thats what I spent the last week doing generating random maps and waiting for the generator to blow up. The good news is that 99% of maps are clean now. There are a few sneaky bugs left, but Ill catch them eventually. The result is that random maps look better than ever now take a look.

The other thing that Ive whipped up last week was the replay system. The game is getting complicated enough now that its hard to debug. Id be playing a random map and at some point the game would crash. How am I supposed to diagnose the problem if I cant make it happen again?

To address this, Ive made the game record all input mouse movement, clicks and button presses. Ive been careful to write the game in such a way that its 100% deterministic if you do the same things to it, youll get the same outcome. This means that I can now load my replay files and reproduce the problems exactly. This will save me a ton of time and make the final game much better.

The question, of course, if whether this will make its way into the final game as a record game feature. Thats not as straightforward as rigging a debug system and it might take me a couple of weeks to polish it up to acceptable levels. I dont know if I have the time to do that, but its on a wanted list.   read

1:03 PM on 08.29.2010

Infested Planet - Random Maps Overhauled

Its important to me that random maps are interesting in Infested Planet. Theyre going to be used in the skirmish mode and in the campaign, so there has to be some variety in the generator. I was pretty proud by the map generation as-is, but some things bugged me. For example, all maps were rectangular. This was a holdover from when the game used a tile-based map. Since I changed the map to polygon-based Ive wanted to have non-rectangular maps.

A couple of days ago I finally made the maps have a random shape. Here are what they look like now:

Another thing I was so annoyed with the temporary interface that I changed it to something better. The old one took up a large chunk of screen space and made it hard to take screenshots.

If you look carefully, youll notice some new elements on the map, besides aliens and humans. Ive been working on the campaign code, and thats a part of it. Im going to talk about them more later. In short, their purpose is to spice up the game and add some variety.

Another detail that you may have noticed is that there are no walls in the middle of the map. Thats something that Im reworking right now. The old walls were all the same size and I want to add some differences in scale. There are also some bugs in the polygon code, so Im in the process of hunting them down.   read

7:23 PM on 08.24.2010

Infested Planet - New Wall Code

After my last post about wall woes, I tried a new approach. The idea is to tile a lot of sprites along the edges. Here it is:

What do you think? Better than the last batch of screenshots?   read

8:03 PM on 08.13.2010

Infested Planet - Me vs Wall Code

Usually I post about stuff that Ive just finished. I grab a couple of pretty screenshots and stick them for your enjoyment. This probably makes the game development process seem nice and simple, like walking across a room.

Well, today Im going to talk about a problem that I dont have a solution to. Walls! I hate walls!

A couple of days ago I decided to improve the look of walls in the game. I had a couple of ideas for this, but so far I havent come up with a solution that I like. Let me show you some of the valiant attempts.

My first try was to add some texture to the walls, like I did with the background. Its a bit more interesting, but I still get a profound sense of blah from that picture. Yuk!

My next approach was to try some shading that I quickly threw together. It helps a little bit, but Im still unhappy with the look. It somehow doesnt fit.

I spent several hours fiddling with the shading settings, trying various combinations of smooth edges and sudden transitions. Unfortunately, nothing really worked. I think that Im going to put the problem aside for now and work on something else. This is probably the 3rd or 4th time that Im shelving the wall work.

Hopefully Ill get an idea that works soon. Know any game that did top-down walls well? Keep in mind that the walls have to be polygonal.   read

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