Designing Faction Icons

It’s been a while, but I’ll have you know that I’ve slowly but steadily been drawing random bits of art for Starfarer. Some of said bits are about the same as before (ship sprites, revised weapon graphics, UI icons) while some are top-secret prototypes and experiments which I couldn’t very well reveal because that’d ruin all the fun of the surprise when you get new presents. Sorry.

For this written interlude I shall discuss some of my thoughts around drawing Starfarer faction icons. I shall give you my lore disclaimer right now: the story & background of Starfarer is not something I make up, though I have certainly contributed thoughts to Alex and Ivaylo on occasion. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, anything I say here about the setting of Starfarer is going to be what goes on in my head while I’m drawing rather than what is any sort of canon which will appear into the game and which you should read closely for overarching literary themes.

So: the factions in Starfarer need identifying symbols, colour themes, and a sort of general ambiance – and these all must support one another. One faction may be warlike and value strength; this must be shown in how they represent themselves. Another may be peaceful and value stability; likewise, it probably wouldn’t do if their icon was a burning red skull menacing with spikes. Pirates could be into that though, because they’d like nothing more than to appear scary and ruthless. I’ll say again, each faction has a few core themes that need to be shown with both symbols and colours which support said themes as well as the setting of Starfarer in general. It’s futuristic heraldry, if you like.

Now let’s have a look at some sketches and the process of taking a faction icon to a presentable state.

(Click on any image to enlarge it.)

My faction icon sketch sheet

Here’s where I threw down some ideas and pushed them around a bit. Some more than others. We’ve got a small set of factions to start with which I think Alex gave me a list for at some point as well as some background material floating around in a shared document somewhere. And of course you’ve met a few of these factions in the game already, so those were my starting points.

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Mod Roundup

Starfarer is still fresh out of the gate – but there are already several playable and very promising looking modding efforts under way.

I hope you give these a try, they’re a lot of fun already. Installing a mod is easy - here is a quick guide.

Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters
One of several mods by forum member Trylobot. Thread & download link here.

The combat has a vastly different feel to vanilla Starfarer, with some striking similarities to Star Control in how it plays out. It’s till in the early stages, but there are already three ships – the Earthling Cruiser, the Ur-Quan Dreadnought, and the Orz Nemesis.

I’m absolutely loving how this mod is coming together. Being a huge SC2 fan I’m a bit biased, though – so here are a few screenshots so you can see for yourself:

Junk Pirates
A mod by mendonca, thread and download link here.  Features an entirely new faction with 6 new ships and fighters, showcased in a series of 4 missions.

My personal favorite is the Dugong-class destroyer, pictured below. It’s got an amazing amount of firepower concentrated in a broadside, and is fast enough to run circles around anything it can’t flat-out outgun.

More mods in the rest of the post…

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“Turning the Tables” Mission Playthrough Video

Well, I finally beat the combat UI into reasonable shape, and was able to record a full playthrough of one of the earlier (and definitely easier) missions. The fleets are comparatively small, and so is the map, making for faster-paced action.

The mission briefing, to set the mood:

The independent prospector ISS Hamatsu is coming back from a tech mining expedition on a decivilized world. The haul is good, and the Hamatsu’s captain has retained a mercenary ship to provide protection en route to market at the Hegemony worlds.

It turns out the captain’s worries were justified. Coming out of hyperspace for a routine refueling stop in the Corvus system, the ships are attacked by a suspected Cult of Lud task force. The Ludii blame technology for humanty’s ills, and will do anything to prevent the Hamatsu and its high-tech cargo from reaching Hegemony space.

After a brief conference, the captains of the Hamatsu and the mercenary ISS Black Star conclude that a counterattack offers the best chance of success – retreat is not a viable option as the Hamatsu is running low on fuel.

The ISS Black Star is under your command.

This is the first look at a continuous slice of Starfarer gameplay. Enjoy!

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The State Of Affairs

The Now is what the ancients would call “year 3126.” We do not call it that anymore. It is pointless to cite large numbers that remind us how far we had come, and how far we have fallen. Since we do not even know where Old Earth is anymore, and cannot reach it – we use a new way of telling time, the sector cycle. In our sector of space, it is cycle 206.

Not much is known about the ancient past. What we know is what survivors recorded or told us. They described a vast galactic nation – the Domain of Man. Spanning hundreds of thousands of worlds in the Milky Way, ruled by the Ecumenical Benevolent Council, with its seat at Old Earth… It is told that one could travel the stars in the blink of an eye through gates constructed by the men of the Domain. Resources were nearly limitless, growth was not bound. Our sector was relatively new on the scene. Some worlds in it had only been settled for 20 or so cycles before the great calamity. The populations of the planets in our sector were still giddy with the initial excitement that every new venture brings. The sector was truly a heaven that we can now only dream of, hoping we go to a place like it when we die.

No one knows for sure what caused the end of this paradise. The records and stories only tell us bits and pieces. Exactly 206 cycles ago, all gates in our sector went dead at once. All communication links to the Domain were severed. Initially, there was no great disturbance in the daily lives of the colonists, it was assumed the gates would be reopened by the Domain, and communications reestablished. So they waited. But the gates were silent.

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