Creating Stellar Phenomena
11/6/2013 11:45:53 AM
I haven't written a developer journal in ages, but with the release of the Stellar Phenomena DLC for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion today, I thought I'd give it a go. This DLC adds a number of elements to Sins that I've long thought of, so seeing it come into being has been a blast. As with everything Sins, I worked closely with Ironclad in designing Stellar Phenomena, as did the rest of the team in creating it. I love getting to work with Ironclad on this stuff, so the past couple months have been pretty sweet. ;)
When we made Forbidden Worlds, our goals were pretty simple: we wanted to add a little more specialization to planets, increase the types of planets in the game, and add in some more planet bonuses. Revising the planet textures during this process was a bonus, as was being able to more than double the number of planet bonuses available as a way to flesh out the Sins universe. Did you know that if you select a planet with a bonus and then hover your mouse over the slot in the lower left center of the UI that an Infocard will give you lore info on it? Honestly, I didn't for a long time, but there's some cool stuff in there!
After the success of Forbidden Worlds, we started to think a lot on what we could do next in the Sins universe and we went back and forth brainstorming with Ironclad. As many Sins players know, we're very limited in what will safely 'fit' into what's left of our 32-bit (2 GB) memory limit, plus what will overtax the simulation and what we can actually accomplish with the time we have. It's actually the #1 consideration we face right next to making sure we stay true to the Sins universe.
One thing that we've always felt Sins needed more of were special, non-habitable gravity wells that had some kind of strategic significance on gameplay. To address this, we went in two directions by adding three new types of stars (Black Hole, Pulsar, and Neutron Star) and six new types of gravity well in the DLC (Comet, Antimatter Fountain, Radiation Storm, Ship Graveyard, Shattered Dwarf, and Ice Field). Each of these new areas has some kind of effect on passing vessels, or in the case of the Ship Graveyard, is a resource rich area to hold via its special outpost.
Another new feature we added in the DLC was random events. This is a feature that we've talked about for years as a way to force players to deal with situations they couldn't entirely foresee. Of course, since these events are potentially very...shall we say...disruptive, we've made this a gameplay option (enabled by default). Some of the events you may encounter are quite beneficial like the Economic Upturn that gives all players a big boost to income and trade; however, others may bite you if you're not careful. One of my favorites is Partisans, so you'd better watch out if you're going to lose a planet to culture! ;) Not all events are global or stationary either - some may move around the map, forcing you to re-evaluate your strategies.
I and everyone at Stardock and Ironclad hope you enjoy Stellar Phenomena!
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion–What’s new
6/12/2012 4:23:22 PM
Introduction – The Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire is a game set in a distant future where mankind has expanded into the stars, creating a loose networking of colonies that become known as the Trade Order. Over a period of a thousand years, the Trade Order worlds experienced peace and prosperity. All of that, however, changed twenty years ago when the aliens arrived.
The Vasari Empire once ruled over countless worlds. For thousands of years, they were unstoppable and considered invulnerable to any external or internal threat. However, approximately 10,000 years ago, an unknown force began wiping out their worlds. When it became clear that they were helpless to stop this force, they fled their own empire and have, ever since, traveled across the stars, just ahead of the unknown terror that pursues them.
While lacking numbers, the remnants of the glorious Vasari empire never had any problems entering into a new space, taking what they needed, and moving on. That is, until they came in contact with the humans of the Trade Order. At first, Trader worlds fell to the Vasari. But soon, mankind formed the Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC), relearned the art of war and began to push back against the invading Vasari forces.
In this stalemate came the exiled race called the Advent. Once human, they had been banished from Trader space long ago due to their experiments in human biological and cybernetic enhancement. Now they’re back and they wish to take what they believe is theirs.
Entrenchment & Diplomacy
Through the course of the conflict, different techniques were attempted to bring the war to an end. Massive star bases were built to defend planets in the hope of making it too expensive to conduct war. Instead, casualties simply soared. Then diplomacy was attempted to try to bring about a negotiated settlement. It failed.
This brings us to Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. The three races have each been split in two as civil war has broken due to years of conflict and destruction. The TEC, Vasari and Advent have slowly ground one another into dust with the survivors clamoring for their own vision of what constitutes victory – at any price.
Without going into all of the hundreds of new features, changes and additions in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion here is a brief summary:
For the first time since the original Sins of a Solar Empire was released, we have a single, fully integrated game, built from the ground up to deliver a spectacular PC-exclusive strategy game experience. Unlike the two stand-alone expansions previously released (Entrenchment and Diplomacy), Rebellion expands across the board. Nothing in the game was untouched. The starbases got enhancements, the diplomatic features were improved, the graphics engine was overhauled, the computer AI greatly updated, the pirates reimagined, the multiplayer vastly improved.
Of course, those kinds of meat and potato improvements don’t tend to get a lot of attention in reviews or in marketing. But to gamers, they matter. They matter because the things that have made Sins of a Solar Empire the most popular space RTS of all time have been taken to their next logical step.
More obvious, however, are the new additions to the game. These include:
The Titans which are, in essence, like the super star destroyers of the Sins universe. As huge as capital ships were in Sins of a Solar Empire, the titan class ships absolutely dwarf them.
New ships such as the new capital ships and cruisers such as the Corvette help ensure that each faction doesn’t just play differently but plays even more uniquely than ever before. Having two years of player feedback on cool ways to make the Vasari, Advent, and TEC play uniquely didn’t hurt either. : )
Factions of the three races now bring new depth. They come in two flavors – Loyalist and Rebel. As you can imagine, this feature results in hundreds of additional changes to the game play since each faction has their own tech tree, ships, etc.
Victory Conditions. We heard you. We listened. We added. Sins of a Solar Empire is famous for delivering 4X strategy in a real-time game. But for players who wanted to be able to focus their games (particularly for shorter games), new victory conditions were added that help ensure that Sins remains a compelling multiplayer experience as well as being able to enhance single player replayability.
If you don’t have Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, join us. Few games have been able to keep the same team together to polish and enhance for as long as the Sins team has had. Thanks to gamers like you, Stardock and Ironclad got to spend a lot of extra time on Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion to make sure it was “just right”.
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