A Tale of Two Tech Levels

This blog post is a tricky one to write – all the pieces are interrelated, and figuring out where to start, and how much background info to provide – to make sure this is comprehensible without having a PhD in Starsectology… well, right, tricky. So, let’s start by taking a brief step back and looking at the kinds of ships there are in the game. There are lots of ways to slice that pie, too, but let’s look at tech levels – namely, “Low Tech” and “High Tech”. There are others, and it gets blurry in places, but for this post, these two are what’s important.

The key thing is that high tech is not intended to be better than low tech, just a different way of doing things. High tech has speed, good shields, and fairly inefficient (but varied!) lower-ranged weapons. Low tech is slower and more ponderous, has high armor and hull integrity, with efficient longer-ranged weapons. The dynamics you get when they face each other is that high tech ships dart in and out of engagement range, relying on shields to see them through, while low tech ships try to make them pay a price for closing in. This is simplifying things a great deal, of course, and there are exceptions, but this is a high-level overview.

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Pirate Bases, Raids, and Objectives

A primary gameplay role  of player-built colonies is getting the player into trouble. Generally speaking, this trouble should be resolved through combat, since combat with context and real stakes is fun. And, after all, what would be the point of building a battlestation if your colonies never got attacked?

One natural source for this kind of trouble is, of course, pirates.


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A True and Accurate History of the Persean Sector

Rise and shine, sleeper.

So you’ve just been hauled out of cryosleep, your quiet journey through space interrupted after a couple hundred cycles drifting along to a Better Place.

Sorry, and welcome to the Persean Sector! You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

It may seem like a bit of a mess, but you should count your lucky stars: you haven’t been carved up for spare parts by some pirate! On a related note, you are going to need credits to put toward interest on the Recovery Installment Plan which has already been attached to your genecode, so let’s introduce the thought that you may indeed wish to sell a kidney, most of your liver, or a surprising amount of skin with very little harm to normal biological function – provided you pass the rad screening, of course. You don’t have to answer now, we’ll give you a bit to think it over.

In the meantime, we’ve prepared a little primer to help catch you up on what’s been going on in the local volume. Your eye movements will trigger text navigation so you don’t have to move your variably atrophied limbs – hope you didn’t go with the cheap model cryotank! Sit back, and please pay attention. We have good statistics which demonstrate that a steady grounding in the present historical context helps cryo-recovered subjects re-integrate with society in 78.3% of cases.


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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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