FiringSquad: What other interesting gameplay elements will Sins of a Solar Empire have?
Blair Fraser: One of the most interesting elements is the epic scale and seamless environment. There is a lot of confusion coming from players who are used to certain conventions in various game genres. From the 4X crowd we often get questions about the ‘star map’ and ‘battle-mode’ and from real-time strategy fans we often get questions about ‘maps’ and ‘sensor mode’. Sins does not have a separate star map, battle mode, specific maps or sensor mode. They are all one in the same and which ‘mode’ you are in really depends on where you have your camera. If you are zoomed into a massive battle watching a fighter you are just enjoying the cinematics. If you zoom out a bit more you are controlling a single fleet in combat around a single planet. If you zoom out a bit more you are analyzing the tactical layout of everything in orbit around that planet. If you zoom out way past the planet you are viewing the strategic positioning of your fleets, planets, and trade routes in that one solar system. If you zoom out way past that you are examining the strategic layout of multiple solar systems within the galaxy. At any point you can zoom back down to watch and control one of potentially many simultaneous battles for a key planet. After describing this there are usually two questions. First, “How big is it all?” and second, “How can I control it all?” The answer to the first is straightforward: “Really big”. The distances and relative sizes of things are pretty crazy. These numbers should give you an idea:
Fighters are roughly 10m.
Frigates average 120m in length.
Capital ships fall between 500-750m.
Planets have diameters of 15,000m.
Stars have diameters of 50,000m.
The distance from the atmosphere to the far orbit is on the order of 100,000m.
A single solar system is on the order of 10,000,000 m from end to end.
The distance between the 2 closest solar systems is around 250,000,000m.
Blair Fraser: Big numbers certainly don’t guarantee great gameplay, but they do introduce some unique mechanics, strategies and help with immersion. You really get a sense of both space and empire!
The answer to the second question regarding controlling so much is much more complicated. User interface plays a large role as does a lot of user choice on AI behaviors. Most actions the player can take can be selectively automated to some extent. Simply right click the button that would perform the action and it occurs automatically (e.g. auto-attacking, building, upgrading). A new concept we call the “Empire Tree” helps manage your entire empire no matter where you have placed your camera. Battles, building, movement and more can all be controlled here. It is basically a collapsible/expandable hierarchy of everything in your empire. The most important answer to the control question is “you can’t control it all”. Sins is about finding the optimal balance between playing the strategic overlord and playing the tactical battle commander. Which battle is the most important for me to manage personally? Of course in single player you can always pause the game and in multiplayer you can set up a short and more manageable deathmatch by adjusting the starting conditions for the game.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the graphical features for the game?
Blair Fraser: Sins is powered by the Iron Engine and features a host of the latest graphical techniques and full DirectX 9c support including bumpmapping, per-pixel specular lighting, dynamic fractal generation, post-process bloom filtering, environment mapping, full Shader Model 2.0 support and more. There are also a variety of options to reduce the graphical demands so Sins will run on older machines and cards. We released a few new screenshots to show the latest pass on the graphics and they will only continue to improve up to release.
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Blair Fraser: We aren’t committing to a release date but Sins is progressing very well. Our latest passes on the art are getting closer to final and the feedback from internal testers is really helping us nail down the user interface and improve the ‘fun’ factor.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Sins of a Solar Empire?
Blair Fraser: Sins of a Solar Empire is a very unique and innovative game that we feel will appeal and be accessible to both casual and hardcore players of strategy games; whether they be real-time or turn-based. If you would like to learn more about Sins, view some screenshots or watch the TEC trailer, drop by www.sinsofasolarempire.com. If you have any specific questions, feel free to join up at the forums. We interact with members regularly and much of the feedback we’ve gotten from them has directly influenced the game for the better. We are always open to suggestions and constructive criticism. Finally, thanks so much to John Callaham and Firing Squad for hosting this interview.
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