When I first received the invite to check out Space Wars: Interstellar Empires, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. There wasn’t a whole lot of information on the website at the time, and Space Wars isn’t exactly the most original videogame name out there. However, a friend asked me to give the game a look, and it’s rare for a game studio to be based near my hometown (Phoenix, AZ), which helped pique my interest.
From Porn to Spaceships
It turns out that Space Wars: Interstellar Empires is the pet project of entrepreneur Rob Simyar. Most people will probably recognize that name as the owner of adult website FTV Girls, but he’s also had his hand in dentistry and photography. According to Rob, the idea for the game has been in the works since he was in dental school. While sitting in class, he would create rules and ideas for a tabletop space strategy game.
With the overwhelming success of his previous endeavors, he decided it was finally time to make his dream game come to life. However, the industry has changed significantly since he began jotting down notes years ago and it now makes a lot more sense to create a strategy MMO instead of a tabletop game. Despite Simyar’s experience with web design, creating an entire game by himself would be a nearly impossible task. So he decided to hire local strategy game developer Desert Owl Games, which is based out of Tucson, AZ.
A Universe of Strategy
The core concept behind Space Wars: Interstellar Empires is a persistent universe with different factions constantly fighting for control. Currently, there are four races in the works: Sol Imperial Worlds, Genari United Empires, Ma’Alaketh Confederation and The Hive. However, only two were available to play at PAX.
There’s an extensive backstory surrounding each race and the conflict that began in 2190. Furthermore, no race is considered good or evil. Instead, each is attempting to obtain more power in order to secure to future of its civilization. There are plans for more than 100 different spaceships and each race is unique in both design and aesthetics. For example, the Sol earn credits to buy more powerful ships while The Hive assimilate enemies they destroy.
Each battle will be played out on a giant grid in turn-based fashion. There are tons of stats and rules in place to govern things like movement, weapon arcs, damage, and accuracy. What separates Space Wars: Interstellar Empires from other grid-based games is that players can enter or flee from a battle at will. This means that hundreds of players could by attacking or defending a single system at any given time. In order to gain control, factions will earn points for destroying or routing enemy ships.
As players participate in combat, they will gain experience points and currency to unlock new skills or ships. Their in-game avatar will act as the captain with its own set of skills, but each ship can also be assigned a crew that levels through combat. Smaller spaceships will level their crews quicker, which means that players who use lower tier ships can still have an advantage.
In addition to having control over ship selection, captain skills, and crew management, players will also need to manage their power during a battle. Functions such as propulsion, sensors, force fields, and weapons can have their power rerouted during a battle depending on needs. If a dreadnought is attempting to hold a region against a swarm of smaller ships, it might be beneficial to maximize shields while a long-ranged sniper ship will want to put more energy into damage.
A Beautiful Concept
One of the things that stood out to me the most regarding Space Wars: Interstellar Empires was the ship design. Both the concept art and in-game design is absolutely stunning with some of the best texture details I’ve ever seen in a Unity game. While in the hangar, players can get a 3D view of their prized battleship, and each race has a completely unique aesthetic design.
Conversely, the battlefield designs are a little basic at this time. Endless space and highlighted grids don’t exactly make for the most exhilarating things to look at, which makes it even more important that players feel a connection with their ships. The combat effects also range from fairly typical lasers to spectacular explosions but for the most part nothing is particularly flashy. Of course, the game isn’t finished yet and too many particle effects could cause issues for larger scale battles.
One of the biggest strengths and weaknesses for Space Wars: Interstellar Empires is that it’s going to be completely reliant on an active player population. There are, of course, a lot of multiplayer games out there but many of them only require a small active population at any given time. For the most part, even in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, players can function fine on their own until it’s time to do dungeons or raid.
In Space Wars: Interstellar Empires there will be little NPC interaction and the focus will be on PvP even during the early level phase. This means that in order for the game to have a long life span, there will need to be a constant influx of players at varying levels. A beginner isn’t going to have much fun getting blown up by dreadnoughts and there needs to be enough participation from at least a few factions to keep the conflict interesting. Gameplay will get dull quickly if one faction takes over every regions, but it’s likely that there will be some sort of safeguard in place for this scenario.
This also makes a fair payment model incredibly important in order to keep new players wanting to try, and keep playing, the game. Simyar assured me that Space Wars: Interstellar Empires won’t be pay-to-win and the most powerful ships will still be accessible to free players. Instead, there will be options to purchase cosmetic skins or variants of existing ships that have a slightly different stat allotment. I was given a chance to browse through the currently available ships, and none of the premium models appeared to be overwhelmingly powerful.
Simyar concluded our meeting by saying that he cared more about giving people a chance to play his dream game than turning a big profit. With the generally small revenue margin for indie games, and the fact that he brought a $1 million car to the convention, this might just be true.Related: MMORPG, PAX West, PAX West 2016, Rob Simyar, Space Wars: Interstellar Empires, Strategy