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Interview October 2005 GO BACK/REGRESAR
The following is the transcript of an email interview, placed here for those interested in knowing a little more about this great game in development at Kerberos Productions. This english version was included for those visiting the oficial forum. The questions were answered by Martin Cirulis, Lead Designer.

For easier reading the questions are grouped by categories.


J de Juegos For what the information tells, planet handling and colonization is practically a get, set and forget issue. Would that be the right way to see it? Or are there any, maybe new things you are including in the process that aren't as obvious as one might think?

Martin Cirulis No, you are not entirely wrong to view it that way, but with the addition of "under normal conditions". Planets in 4X games are units of production for all intents of purposes and we really don't see the need to bog them down with all sorts of "busy work". You have sliders to control initial development and then after a planet is fully developed you can generally let it sit while you pay attention to more dynamic things. Now when a planet is under assault or needs to increase production dramatically then your attention swings back to your planet setting where you then decide do you want to put the efforts into rebuilding damage or defenses and then there is the whole issue of over-harvesting. It's a powerful boost to production, but one that permanently reduces the resource base of a planet.

JdJ Aside of in the starmap, the forums give some clues about the chance of strategizing inside a system. Care to elaborate? Can we place the defense fleet/satellites? Mines and others during a Turn? Or is it all just before combat?

MC Satellites are placed automatically in a defensive ring around the planet. Initial fleet formation can be set any time from the fleet manager. Mines are placed during combat as they are inherently unstable and detonate on their own after a certain amount of time.

JdJ Since the starmap is 3D, are systems shown in a cubic view of space? Or, in general, what would be the extra gameplay added by a 3D map, or is just aesthetics?

MC It's not just a gimmick. A 3-D volume is nothing like a 2-D map that artificially creates range and choke points. A 2-D starmap is a product of the earliest board game versions of 4X games and we thought we would take advantage of modern technology and make the point that strategy in space goes in all directions. No longer can you make a safe assumption that the enemy on one front of your empire is blocking everyone else from your borders. Your borders are all around you. You just can't fortify a couple of planets and assume your backfield is safe. The other real difference between 2-D and 3-D starmaps is that 3-D actually makes the action closer and more direct. On a 2-D map, 250 stars means a very, very long trip from one side of the map to another and therefore, in a big game you may not meet every other empire for hundreds of turns. On the SotS 3-D map, 250 stars still makes for a compact game because the stars are in all directions. You can form a large empire and still have to deal with multiple opponents all around you from fairly early on in the game.

JdJ Talking about the modular system: what the user assembles is the blueprint of a ship, or a ship? If the first, Can we give names to the blueprints? (like MYCLASS or BOMBER)

MC Yes the players design the blueprint of a ship type and then name it themselves.

JdJ Let me assume we are dealing with blueprints here, just to avoid confusion later on. What can we do once we have one, edit/rename/erase? or are they set in stone? (assuming, of course, I have no ship built for the given blueprint).

MC The designs are set into stone. If you wish to modify a design you can start with that blueprint and add or subtract from it, but you must give it a different name.

JdJ Besides defining the role of a ship, within a fleet, what else do the sections help establish: ship cost? ship "hit-points"? both, other? (if other, any examples?)

MC Yes, each section has its own cost and hit points as well as the ability to place different armor plating on it or other special tech additions that modify range or shield power.

JdJ Are there sections that give bonuses/area bonuses? special attacks or abilities? Not like jamming, more like extra speed, or firepower. If affirmative what would be an example? (I mean, bonus beyond section role).

MC Well a torpedo mission section for a destroyer would technically give it a special ability to fire torpedoes, but as far as real firepower differences it comes down to turret number, size, and placement - each section is different from the others in those terms. So a cruiser Assault Command section has fixed beam and torpedo mounts making it very powerful head on while the Battle Bridge Command Section lacks the fixed heavy weapons, but has more heavy turrets with a wider angle of fire. Both these sections pack more hitting power than the Hammerhead command section but are more expensive and slow the maneuverability of the ship.

JdJ I can understand the basic idea behind a Command and a Mission section, but, what is the real purpose of having an Engine section? different speeds? or just different turret placement? Or do they act as power generators too? That is, a better engine section also stands for faster firing rate with energy weapons and faster shield regeneration?

MC Engine sections increase tactical and strategic speed and new sections are not only created for both power plant tech (fission, fusion, anti-matter), but also for advances in FTL drive. As power plant tech increases it is assumed one is getting more power in less space, this means larger or more turrets in advanced engine sections as well as more "hit points".

JdJ I read there will be energy shields of various types, probably even hull special coats/reinforcements, are these linked to one or other sections? or are they extra devices we can plug-in into a given section? or... something else?

MC Armor techs can be added to any section as an attribute while shield generation requires a dedicated section but the shield power can be increased through attribute techs.

JdJ None of the videos, released so far, show it, but I read somewhere in the forums that ships have 'real space' drives (to differentiate from those for FTL), does that refer only to forward movement, or do they acquire special thrusters for turning, combat and avoiding objects?

MC Real space drives are your ships main Newtonian physics drive systems that generate thrust and push your ship in any direction in tactical combat. Some races achieve this by just venting energy from their powerplant while others like the Liir or, eventually, the Tarka, use exotic technology to move in "real space".

JdJ During combat the number of ships that enter the action is limited by Command Points, but, overall, are there limits to the number of ships on a fleet? How about the number of fleets on a system and the number of fleets in the "SOTS Universe"?

MC All of these numbers are completely to do with computer memory and will be set to accommodate the largest number of machines. But for sure you can assume safely that the number is very large for all of them.

JdJ What can you tell me about single-player gameplay in general. I read there are two Campaigns, is that correct? Are they story driven? What other play modes are there besides the Campaigns, skirmish against the CPU?

MC SotS is at heart a strategy/tactical wargame. Anything you can do in multi-player you can do in single player. There are no campaigns per se, but instead there are scenarios. As a classical wargame may allow you to play out the War of 1812, and the American Civil War, and the Napoleonic Battles, SotS will allow you to choose from a number of interesting scenarios to start a game with and modify the strategic rules from the standard "choose-any-side, fight against the CPU for Universe conquest" mode. These scenarios will reflect various eras and event from the "SotS universe".

JdJ If there is a "choose-any-side fight against the CPU for Universe conquest" mode, how configurable are the play options? Can we choose number of systems, level of AI, maybe max tech level? Others? Are systems/planets attributes defined randomly for each game?

MC As mentioned before, there is indeed a random map set up where you can play against up to 7 other players or AI's for galactic domination. You will be able to set turn time limits, map shape and number of stars, research and economic efficiency levels, how many initial plants and how many initial technologies you want.

JdJ (Perhaps in relation to the previous question) Is there going to be some play mode, or a configuration option, in which we can have access to ALL the technology tree(s) of the species being played?

MC No, the random tech trees are integral to SotS's unique gameplay design.

JdJ What can you tell me about camera controls, and camera views in general? How free is it? Will there be a follow-ship option? Isometric view? first-person? third-person? "Get crazy exploring with the mouse" view? "Back to default" button? Free mode? Zoom in/out? All of the above and more?

MC You can select any object you can see. Center in your view on a ship with a touch of the button and the camera will stay locked on it. Your visual range is limited to the visual range of your ships so if you are locked onto an enemy ships that goes out of range the camera will snap back to the nearest friendly ship. Camera rotation and zoom in and out use standard mouse controls for this type of game in order to stay completely intuitive. It has been our experience that "crazy cameras" cause "crazy problems" for most folks.

JdJ How is the game save model in single-player? Quicksave/load? Save/load at will?  Autosave/checkpoints? All of the above?

MC You can save and load whenever you want during the strategy game. In multiplayer, the game will autosave at the beginning of every round, which is handy.

JdJ Any plans to release extra sections after the initial release, for download?

MC Indeed there are! Whether these will be as rewards for pre-order or unlocked by winning various scenarios under various difficulty levels has yet to be determined.

JdJ Where are ships built, space stations? planets? other? Do we see the process?

MC Technically ships are built in orbit around planets, but you do not see this process as it occurs during the strategic turn. Just because some of this stuff happens "between" turns, doesn't mean we didn't bother to wonder things like, what does a Hiver colony look like, or what does a Liir orbital drydock look like? Arinn Dembo, who's done a lot of excellent background material for games like Homeworld: Cataclysm and Arcanum, has worked out a lot of the histories of each race. As well, she sat down with our artists, and worked with them to help shape the races visually - what they look like, what their technology looks like, what their worlds look like. So when events happen in the game, they aren't just simple notes - they come with glimpses of the life of aliens.

JdJ How does the real-time combat work in single-player, is it time limited? is there an active pause system to allow for a better understanding of the battlefield?

MC Single player tactical combat is identical to multiplayer except you WILL be able to pause the game and give commands.

JdJ Will 3D space have some tactical use in combat? I read it will be the ship that decides whether to move up or down, so, as users, can we command a ship to go up/down away from sensor range to later attack from behind/above/under or something?

MC While the ships can decide to maneuver vertically when in combat, the player gives general 2-D location commands to the ships. This not only serves to drive home the player is a fleet commander, and NOT the pilot of every single ship, but also allows us to NOT burden the player with fully 3-D movement interfaces which are at best cumbersome and require a steep learning curve.

JdJ In single-player. Is the combat process, so to speak, the same when attacking a system with a colony, one without, or when fleets just meet in space?

MC The combat process is the same, but factors like meeting distance and "terrain" are different.

JdJ I read that ships wont gain experience, so, is there going to be any other system to make each unit special/valuable somehow? and not just because of its cost? Or are they all... expendable? (I mean this at an armada level, not so much at fleet or attack group level; like, there is this one unit that I would, for one or other reason, want to survive any skirmish, anywhere... or at least do my best toward it).

MC You want a ship to survive because it takes not only money, but time to produce. Ships are power in SotS. Any player that does not see every ship as useful and use it to its full tactical advantage will almost always lose to a player that knows better. And as far as the long-term functioning of a fleet goes, things like command ships, special sensor or jammer ships and even upkeep ships like tanker, repair ships and refinery ships are vital to long term survival away from base and so are very important to keep alive in battle.

Many thanks to the PR team at Kerberos Productions and to Martin Cirulis for finding the time to answer this interview.
Todos los gráficos y otros afines al juego pertenecen a Kerberos Productions.
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