Believe it or not, yes, all those ships are needed to take on that AI outpost
Co-Optimus: One thing you mention regarding the AI is how it uses "behaviorlets" to determine tactical actions, such as flanking or choosing target. Are there some co-op behaviors included in there?
Christopher: The thing to remember with this game is that the primary way that I play it is co-op. So all of the behaviorlets, as well as all of the gameplay mechanics in general, were designed with co-op play in mind. If it didn't work well in co-op, it got cut from the game. And some of the AI types, such as Bully and Assassin for instance, really only make sense in a co-op context, because they go for the weakest and strongest players respectively, and in a solo game that doesn't have any meaning. I think this may be one fundamental difference between myself and a lot of other game designers -- I'm not just a proponent of co-op, I'm not just tacking it on because intellectually I believe it's a good idea, but rather this is the primary way that I play games whenever they support it. 75% or more of our alpha testing was done while playing co-op, and I'm not sure there's another game around that could say that! I don't feel like co-op is the number one selling factor for AI War in the general marketplace, since most genre fans play solo, but I built this primarily for my playgroup and myself, so co-op has always been at the very forefront when it comes to design.
Co-Optimus: Your first big expansion to the game, The Zenith Remnant, is slated to come out within the next couple of months, which will include new ships, new AI styles, and a new faction. Any plans for specific co-op updates or features via the free monthly DLC after that expansion goes live?
Christopher: Here again, the first thing to remember is that most of the core testing is going to be done in co-op, so everything is going to be aimed at augmenting and improving the co-op experience. Beyond that, we are going to be adding in online matchmaking through a couple of services, so if players are having trouble finding people to play co-op with, hopefully that will help. We'll also be retroactively giving that matchmaking functionality to existing customers for free, because we think it does add a lot of value. I do also expect to see some refinement of the recent "Manage Players" feature that allows for co-op dropin/dropout. That's something that is already seeing some refinement between our 1.301 and 2.0 releases, actually...
Beyond those two large items, I think we'll continue to see a large number of small co-op-specific enhancements. The 2.0 release has a fair number of those, such as the ability to see the resource stores/income/outflows for allies by hovering over your own resource information in the HUD, and improvements to the gifting interface that shows when ships can't be gifted between players for whatever reason... Those sort of incremental small improvements are ongoing, and will continue via free DLC as players make suggestions or as new ideas occur to me through my own play sessions (as with those ideas in 2.0). I don't want to put items that are too vital for co-op into paid expansions, because I don't want to force co-op players to upgrade to the expansion in order to get the most out of it. The free monthly DLC is also going to be something that we continue to do for years; even after multiple expansions all of the free DLC will still be available for customers of just the base game.