Three years ago I set out to live on a windy rock bordering the Greenland Sea (colloquially referred to as “Iceland” by the native population) to work on a next-gen strategy game called Starborne: Sovereign Space. Today, we’re launching the Open Beta, and here’s what it’s all about.
Starborne is a modern reimagination of the classic browser MMORTS formula with a 4X twist. The game is an RTS at heart, but it incorporates many gameplay elements from traditionally single-player strategy titles to add deeper empire customization, more complex win conditions, and meaningful account progression.
While improving the gameplay of a tried and tested genre was our main goal with Starborne, we also wanted to set ourselves apart technologically and decided to use a client instead of a browser early on. This enabled us to do amazing things with the visuals and really drive home the selling point of the game: The map.
The Starborne Map
It’s gigantic, it’s seamless, and it’s made up of almost one million hexes. Thousands of concurrent players can explore, build and fight on every single one of these hexes in real-time over the span of 10 weeks. This is Battle Royale Extreme: Space Edition.
The map itself is created by hand using a rudimentary map editor, and I had the privilege and misfortune of being responsible for our prototype Alpha game map. Trying to combine balance, looks and was daunting at first, but we managed to pull it off through clever template tiling suggested by our veteran artist Gauji.
While this mode was about as balanced as it could get as players were evenly distributed throughout the map, it forced an overly aggressive approach to play which saw players eliminated at an alarming rate. This was further reinforced by new PvP mechanics introduced which gave veteran alliances an overwhelming advantage, and it was clear that something needed to change.
For the beta, we used an older model as a base with the starting systems surrounding the main play area which has been divided into distinct sectors, each serving a different purpose. This gives new players a clear direction to expand into and some initial protection from the lethal political machinations that occur very early on.
Also new is the addition of three new win conditions. Up until now, the game only supported a single coalition from winning the game, which unfortunately resulted in a rather stale political landscape where large premades decided the outcome before a server even started. With this new approach, we’re hoping to see more cooperation between competing alliances and just generally more fluid political developments as the game progresses.
The launch of the Open Beta is a major milestone for the project and the reception has been amazing so far. It’s hard to put into words how proud I am of the team here at Solid Clouds for pulling this off – we lacked the experience, money and time to actually create Starborne, but we did it anyway.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the countless alpha testers who have accompanied us over these past few years. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing community, and having our design decisions challenged on a daily basis ultimately turned a little-known prototype called “Prosper” into what Starborne is today: A game our fans want to play.
Now we begin the next chapter for Starborne as we enter into LiveOps proper and take on a more reactionary development approach. Transitioning the team like this is going to be difficult, but I’m nonetheless excited to shift into a new mode and realize the game’s full potential.