While Vancouver based developer Kerberos Productions's 3D 4X space strategy game Sword of the Stars is about to be released to stores next week (and you can download it now off of Paradox's Gamer's Gate web site), yet another Vancouver based developer is working on their own space strategy title. Ironclad Games' Sins of a Solar Empire is still deep in development but looks promising and FiringSquad decided to chat with Ironclad co-founder Blair Fraser to get more info about the title.
FiringSquad: First, how did Ironclad Games come to be formed?
Blair Fraser: Ironclad was officially formed in early 2004. The founding team is composed of ex-Rockstar Vancouver / Barking-Dog employees that wanted to explore some interesting technology ideas and make the kind of sci-fi real-time strategy game that we had dreamed about since we were kids. When the opportunity arose, we took it.
FiringSquad: Ironclad is working on a space strategy game and another Vancouver based developer is close to releasing their own space strategy game. Are there any friendly rivalries going on between the two?
Blair Fraser: The founders of both companies know each other from our time at Barking-Dog Studios and Rockstar. Given the culture and work experience we’ve shared, it’s not surprising we both decided to work on variations of space strategy. The direction they took is very different than our own and thus, from our perspective, there is no rivalry. We see some of our key features and gameplay being more akin to something like Supreme Commander, but even still, Sins stands apart from any game we have played or see on the radar.
FiringSquad: How did the idea for Sins of a Solar Empire come about?
Blair Fraser: The vision for Sins draws its influences from almost 2 decades of gaming. Three of us have been gaming together since we were children and the others share very similar experiences. One of the earliest inspirations was from playing an old board game called Buck Rogers – Battle for the 25th Century made by TSR. It featured a dynamic solar system, fleets of warships, heroes with special powers, planet conquering and so on. While we enjoyed the game immensely, we often ended up in heated arguments (including the occasional board flipping!) over interpretation of some of the more loosely defined rules. Further inspiration for Sins includes all the 4X games we used to play, most notably Spaceward Ho!, VGA Planets and Master of Orion 1 and 2. 4X refers to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate, and are often considered the four pillars of space strategy gameplay (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4x for a more in depth look at 4X). Before the birth of real-time strategy games we always talked about how cool it would be to play those games without having to take your turn into the school computer lab on 3 ½ discs to resolve it and even better if you didn’t have turns at all!
In more recent years, team members have played a ton of real time strategy games, from early hits like Dune 2 and Warcraft 2 to more modern titles like Rome:Total War, and Rise of Legends. It’s a genre that we’re all particularly fond of; this is even implied by our work history with credits in games like Homeworld: Cataclysm and Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon.
Sins of a Solar Empire is essentially a distillation of the grand strategy of 4X games married to the visceral appeal of RTS battles. One could almost say it’s an ‘RT4X’.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline for the game?
Blair Fraser: The ancient Vasari Empire once ruled a large portion of the galaxy. Following an apocalyptic event 10,000 years ago, what remains of their civilization has been on the run from an unknown threat. Every so many years they drop out of faster-than-light travel in Phase space to build more starships, increase their population, and acquire the necessary resources to fuel the next leg of their exodus. This process was repeated countless times with little complication until they entered what was known as Trader space. For 1000 years the Traders had lived in peace and prosperity and were unprepared for the alien force. Lacking any formal military structure, weapons, technology or training, the outer Trader worlds fell one by one. After devastating losses, some of the key worlds unified into the Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC) and began organizing a defense. Now, after years of war, they are on the verge of finally stalling the Vasari advance. Little do the TEC realize that the Vasari want out of Trader space just as bad as the TEC want them to leave. The Vasari know the longer this drags out the less chance they will have to escape what they perceive as a greater threat. The the game itself takes place 10 years after the initial Vasari invasion and just after an old ‘friend’ of the TEC has come back to pay a visit. The newcomers were exiled from Trader space many generations ago for scientific and social deviancy. In the time that has passed they have established their own empire and are now calling themselves “The Advent”. Carrying a thirst for vengeance, a nasty superiority complex, and an insatiable hunger for the rare resources that fuel their way of life, they are now causing havoc on the other side of Trader space.