For the past year Starbase Orion has been incubated and nurtured by the iOS fans; the time has come to share this title with the rest of the world. We need your help to bring this top-notch 4X space strategy game to more players!
BOLDLY GOING WHERE FEW HAD GONE BEFORE
Two and a half years ago new 4X space games were virtually unheard of. On the PC you could count the number of new 4X games on one hand (and still have a few fingers to spare). So you can imagine how bleak the landscape was for 4X games on mobile devices! There was just one 4X space game available on the iOS AppStore, and that was a port of a much older PC title. It was in this setting that I set out to create an original 4X game that was still inspired by the classics.
After more than a year of development, Starbase Orion made its debut on iPhone and iPad in late 2011. And what a debut it was! But don't take my word for it, you can read any of the reviews below, check out the 1500+ ratings on iTunes, watch the game play reel, or find a friend with an iPhone/iPad and try it for free with Starbase Orion: First Contact!
In the year since its release, the fans and I have worked hard at making the game even better. We have released a new update each month packed with bug fixes, balance tweaks, and brand new features! The last thirteen months has truly been a journey. But during this time we have received dozens of emails asking when Starbase Orion will be made available on Android and PC. Now is the time to make it happen!
If you'd like to see Starbase Orion be one of the first 4X games to be available natively across iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac then this is the place for you.
WHAT'S THE PLAN?
I anticipate the project will take approximately five months to complete. Some of the funds will go towards software licensing and server costs. Some will be used to hire freelance designers and artists. A portion of the funds will be set aside for marketing the game once the port is finished.
Where are the stretch goals? If you ask the current community of Starbase Orion players, one of the key elements to this game's success has been the inclusion of the players in new feature ideation and changes. I want to continue the KickStarter in that spirit. Any additional funds we raise beyond the goal will be used solely for the purpose of improving Starbase Orion, and I will be taking ideas on what those improvements should be from the KickStarter backers and the Starbase Orion community. Overfund the project and YOU will have a say in what the stretch goals are!
WHERE'S THE LOOT!
The Morph t-shirt and Gorzhons figurine are KickStarter exclusive items! After the KickStarter is funded, they will not be available by any other means.
MORE ABOUT THE GAME!
Focused on Player Skill
Starbase Orion is unique in the 4X genre in that it has goal to provide a first-class, competitive, player versus player experience. One particular challenge with game balance in a 4X game is that small early advantages snowball to help win the late game. A simple example: player A is randomly placed next to a star system with a mineral rich terran planet, while player B only has normal, barren planets in starting range. Player A will colonize the terran planet, and that advantage snowballed over 500 turns can very well decide the game. There was no player skill involved here, just luck.
Starbase Orion has game options to facilitate games that revolve around player skill that normally do not in a 4X games. Balanced maps are one such option. In a balance map generation, the galaxy generated like a donut. Each player gets a "slice", and each slice randomly generated but mirrored. This ensures that each player has nearly identical starting conditions, allowing player skill in choosing how to expand and what to colonize to be the deciding factor in the early game. The "center" of the donut is called the "neutral zone". The neutral zone is created 100% randomly and provides a nice goal for players to rush towards for exploration.
Leaders (or Heros) is another area that can greatly unbalance a traditional 4X game. A MOO2 example is the easiest way to explain this. Let's say player A and player B are of similar skill and are engaged in a competitive MOO2 match. Leaders in MOO2 can be randomly discovered on planets, or they will randomly offer their service for hire to one player at a time. In our case, player B acquires the android leader early-mid game. This is enough to call the entire game on, as the android provides instant access to the best production tech in the game. Player A, however, has no knowledge that Player B has luckily gained such a huge advantage, nor did player A have any interaction to try and block player B from gaining said advantage.
Leaders in Starbase Orion are all unique and highly desirable. Each leader has three separate abilities; one for the ship/planet they are in, one for the system/fleet they are in, and another "ultimate" ability that truly defines that leader. Governor Fve Bgeeep is a great example! "The bunny" is a great leader to have to protect a single key system. His planet ability makes it immune to starvation during a siege. His system ability protects the whole system from enemy sabotage. His ultimate transforms a defending starbase into "Bgeep's Burrow", a massively enhanced version of the original starbase.
With such great leaders, how can they be introduced to the players in a way that enhancing player interaction and skill? New leaders in Starbase Orion offer their services to the highest bidder. Desirable leaders will cause players to engage in a bidding war. The player that plans carefully and has funds reserved for bidding on leaders will go far.
Other considers for leaders include when leaders will begin to appear. Colony leaders appear first 30 turns into the game, allowing players to acquire these paragons of production and solidify their economic plans. At 70 turns in Military leaders will begin to appear.
Finally Starbase Orion includes a "Leader Ban" mode. In this mode each player gets to choose a single leader to ban from the game completely. Want to deny your opponents to get First Cerebrum, a very powerful research leader? Ban him. Your strategy relies on an early rush? Ban Governor Fve Bgeeep.
Plenty of Options
While player skill played a large part in Starbase Orion's development, the single player experience is also paramount. SO has plenty of options to allow you to play how you like, when you like. Want a completely random map? Go for it. Remove leaders entirely? Go for it.
Making Multiplayer Work
It is no secret; to have a competitive game based on player skill you need at least two human players. No 4X game A.I. to date can match the intricacy of the human mind. But how does one match the need to have human players to a game that can take hours of continuous play to finish? Starbase Orion answers this challenge through asynchronous turn-based play combined with unique optimizations to speed up play.
Asynchronous turn-based gaming means that you do not play the game in one sitting, you instead take your turn whenever you have free time to. Depending on the number and availability of players this means SO games can last anywhere from a day to months. You can have several games going at once; experienced SO players often have 4-6 games going and commit 10-14 turns a day (each turn taking just a few minutes).
In addition there are several features built in to stream-line the game even more. Players can choose to skip idle turns in multiplayer, allowing those "10 turns to get there" to fly by.
Player swizzling is another big advantage for 1v1 games. With player swizzling each player enters orders for two turns at a time. For 1v1 games this reduced that amount of needless passing back and forth by a factor of 2x.
When the KickStarter gets funded we want to take this even further. Right now we are limited by GameCenter, which favors a "one player taking a turn at a time" scheme. Starbase Orion can support true simultaneous turn taking; so instead of player A taking their turn, then player B, then player C we will be able to support player A, B, and C taking their turn at the same time. This will dramatically decrease the amount of time to play when everyone is online and available to play.
Tough Technology Choices
Technology and research skews more towards the MOO2 canon than the "giant hairball of tech" approach. We have three tech branches (Astrophysics, Military, and Civil) populated with meaningful technology choices. Also similar to MOO2 you cannot research all possible technology (disregarding a certain racial trait ;-) ). In Starbase Orion technology project age off in each tree branch each time you research a tech. This provides a large amount of interesting player choices; should I research Laser Beam III at the expense of Gauss Turrets? In SO the techs you "lose" eventually roll back in, but how you traverse the tech tree the first go through can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Custom Ship Designs
There are 5 classes of ships in Starbase Orion: frigates, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, titans, and mammoths. Each class of ship has a distinct number of weapon and system slots which you can outfit in whatever manner you wish. Want to build long range missile boats? Close in brawlers with gauss turrets? The path to victory often lies in building a fleet that correctly counters your opponents.
Here is a collection of screenshot and other material:
In 2114 A.D. Humanity nearly destroyed itself as years of self-destructive behavior, corruption, and incompetence created a global economic collapse. Governments fell, people starved, and anarchy was more common than any semblance of peace and order.
The survivors eventually rallied, and a global Confederacy was formed. First created out of rough and tumble city-states, which were mostly concerned with their own survival, the Confederacy seemed likely to fail. To succeed it required diplomacy, ingenuity, and many black-operations that, officially, never happened. Because of the sacrifice of many patriots the Confederacy first survived, then stabilized, and finally flourished.
After the Confederacy stabilized its rule humanity regained faith in itself. Calling upon a rich history of entrepreneurial spirit and tough-as-nails attitude the humans looked beyond their world to the riches of space, quickly colonizing their solar system.
As humanity’s influence expanded, so did the reach of their government. Looking deeply into the lives of even the most common citizen, big government oversight and meddling bureaucracy spawned a breed of space smugglers. These unique individuals developed many knacks and technologies to slip past any security or customs checkpoint the Confederacy could think of. In short order many space captains earned well-over half their pay through “fun runs,” as smuggling operations became known.
After colonizing their own backyard the human’s ingenuity carried them to new solar systems, and into direct conflict with other sentient civilizations. While they first sought to peacefully coexist with their new neighbors, misunderstandings and diplomatic mistakes raised tensions. Things only got worse when several space captains bungled simple “fun runs” and were discovered with highly illegal cargos.
Afraid, but determined, the Confederacy braced itself for this new conflict, their courage bolstered by the presence of living legends such as Captain Jack Gentry and Colonel Hanifer. Building new ships, training covert operatives, and capitalizing on its pilots smuggling skills, the Humans have prepared themselves to face any incoming threat with steely resolve, accurate fire, and silent knives in back rooms. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance, and the Humans have never faced extinction quietly.
Of all the sentient civilizations in the galaxy none are more unpredictable, violent, or naturally deadly than the Isather Dominion. For thousands of years the species was divided into numerous tribes that were at constant war with each other. First evolving from pack hunters they are naturally extremely territorial and prone to solving all problems with maximum, brute force and terrifyingly violent finality.
After their Industrial Revolution many individuals found they had a natural affinity for metallurgy, and astounding buildings, monuments and even cities sprung up almost overnight. Unfortunately, the only successful cities to sprout up on their home world were populated by single tribes. Any multiple tribal cities were destroyed down to the foundations as territorial rivalries and the smallest misunderstanding quickly sparked full-scale, tribe verse tribe wars in the streets.
Their tribal mentality would have fated them to never leave the planet, were it not for the need to unite and defend themselves when an alien fleet of slavers and strip miners descended on their world. Millions of Isather were killed or enslaved overnight. Desperate, the tribal leaders sought whatever resources they could find that would give them a chance against the invaders.
One such resource was Mortis Wretch, former leader of the Wretch Tribe, imprisoned for violating the Isather’s one shared Taboo: the slaughter of women and children. Released from his sentence, Wretch resumed leadership of his tribe and turned his genocidal tendencies towards the invaders. The invasion was over within a year.
Uniting under a common cause and a single flag for the first time in their violent history, the survivors formed the Isather Dominion. The Dominion’s charter was to hunt down and destroy those who had brought death to their world. Using their natural high strength and almost innate skills in metallurgy the Isather labored to create their own starships.
After many years and many more failures their labors were finally successful. As the first exploration fleet lifted off from the planet a sense of accomplishment washed over the population. They had risen from the ashes. They had reached the stars. And soon they would have vengeance for the mass graves that covered their planet.
Although they are highly cunning and competitive the people of the Draske Hegemony have known peace and prosperity for millennia, under the guiding hand of the Matriarchs. Evolving from small, winged lizards and blessed with millennia-long lives the Draske are the undisputed masters of their planet. Impressive wingspans, often five or more tales wide, allow them to perform complex aerial maneuvers at high speeds and makes them naturals at aeronautics acrobatics.
Highly competitive by nature the Draske hold weekly, monthly and annual competitions in everything from farming, to the arts, to the most prized competition of all: aerial maneuvering. Doing well in these tournaments ensures prestige, wealth, and a successful career. Those who fail the competitions more than three times in a row often end their lives as quietly, and as quickly, as possible, to eliminate any shame they have brought to their family lines.
When space flight became possible the Matriarch ordered the swiftest and most agile Draske to compete in an aerial tournament for the honor of become the first crews. This annual tournament is still held, assuring only the most skilled Draske earn one of the coveted spots at the space academy, where a shrine is lovingly maintained with the names of the first ships’ crewmembers.
Over the thousands of years they have flown through the cosmos since that first tournament the Draske have discovered many other intelligent species. Some, still in the beginning stages of tool use, they have left to their own devices. Others they lifted up to the stars. A few have been embraced into the Hegemony as client members, such as the grub-like members Harge Commune, or the Felinoids of the Gnactic Space Federation.
Naturally friendly and open to new possibilities the Draske are quick to extend the hand and wing of friendship to other space-faring civilizations. But recently the hands and wings have been off and returned in dead ships. And so the Draske have called up ship designs not used in living memory. Ships designed to cut and dart through the void. Ships designed to kill.
But some in the Hegemony have growing tired of the Matriarch’s rule. Cries for gender and even racial equality are on the rise, and others have called for outright war or full disarmament. Thoughts of change and new leadership are taking wing faster than the Draske themselves, and Hegemony wide unrest seems ready to break free. Though no single thread of thought has gained united support it is clear to the Matriarch that the people are divided. The coming times will see the continuation of the Hegemony, united in one flock as never before, or the sundering of the Draske into individual fliers, lacking direction and lost in a storm.
For a race of machines with perfect, digital memories it is ironic that only myths and legends exist of their origin. Perhaps they were the creation of a mad scientist, or maybe the end product of massive supercomputer. However it happened the Cybans know that first there was one. That one grew and developed in intelligence. Discovering robotics left behind by its creators it developed a form, created a body. One became two. Two became four. Four became eight, and a new, robotic race of beings was born. They called themselves the Community of Cybans.
Though they gained awareness on a gigantic, derelict spaceship the Community soon crashed into a lush, fertile garden world, where their bodies were repurposed to run on bio-fuels. Knowing no self-interest, and working only for the common good of the Community, the Cybans labored without rest, and without conflict. Their numbers increased rapidly, and soon perfect dominion of the planet was theirs.
As with all intelligent beings the Cyban yearned to know where they came from. Fortunately for the Cybans, this was a literal question, and they turned their perfect minds to the task of answering it. Their questioning almost immediately led them back to space, and, with the aid of perfect mathematics and universal cooperation, the Community of Cybans quickly reached the stars. But backtracking the route of the derelict spaceship that had brought them to their home world took years, and directly led the Cybans to their first encounter with sapient, organic species.
First contact went well, over audio communications. Calculating the odds that these were their long-forgotten creators the Cybans felt the stirrings of their first emotion: hope. But any chance at peaceful cooperation was dashed when the two sides met face to face. The aliens, superstitious and afraid of the “untamed robotic demons,” opened fire. Knowing nothing but peace and cooperation the small Cyban fleet, with no weapons or means of defending themselves, was slaughtered.
Only an update drone reached the home world with a record of what had transpired. To prevent future hostilities the Cybans adopted many customs of the organic species. Some community members went so far as to take organic names and add clothing to their mechanical forums. But hostilities continued, ships were slaughtered, and the Cybans began to feel another emotion: anger. The search for their origin was being jeopardized, and Community members were being destroyed.
Seeing no alternative, the Cybans turned their perfect mathematics and expert engineering to solving the problem with forceful means. Under the leadership of legendary shipbuilder Cla-TK-7-7A, and with the material wealth found by Magistrate Xalon, the Cyban shipyards expanded almost overnight. Instead of unarmed exploration ships they created destroyers and battleships with powerful weapons. They still wanted to know where they came from, and if violence was required to find it than no organic would be left standing in their way.
How or why the Vass developed is as unknown as it is unknowable. During the first eons of their existence they could have been mistaken as a small clouds drifting around their prehistoric world. Over time the clouds grew and multiplied. It wasn’t until their numbers swelled significantly that they formed the first intelligent thought.
The more the Vass grew and multiplied the more intelligent they became. Eventually, they formed a communal consciousness, a shared intelligence. After countless more millennia this developed into one of the most refined intellects in the known universe.
This intellect eventually pointed them to the stars. Unaware of the limitations of their shared intelligence the Vass sent ships to explore the cosmos. These explorations proved to be disastrous. Once the venturing Vass traveled past the range of their shared intellect they rapidly grew confused and simpleminded, unable to perform any function that required higher-level intelligence. Essentially crewless husks, these first ships still drift across the endless cosmos.
Using their shared intellect the Vass developed new ships, built from a crystalline element found on their home world. These new designs, coupled with the natural properties of the crystal, allowed even the smallest vessel to carry enough Vass to maintain their intelligence. When their foraying ships discovered alien life the horde became known as the to the universe as Vass Collective.
Initially having no discernable leadership, the Collective concluded it needed a single being to lead them and interact with its neighbors. It was the single-greatest problem the Collective had ever contemplated, and the solution came only after great struggle. The answer redefined the way their race would forever look at themselves.
Over a million of the eldest members of the Collective permanently linked their minds and melded their bodies into one, sacrificing their own lives for the greater good of the Vass. The result was Eesathu, a member of the Collective and yet a Collective all by itself. Able to function at the highest levels of intelligence while completely isolated, Eesathu became the leader the Vass needed. He is their spokesperson, guide, and guardian. And, to some Vass, a savior, pointing the way they must travel for further enlightenment.
United as never before under its leadership, the Vass Collective has set out to expand and explore the galaxy. Willing to live in peaceful harmony the Vass will accept new members into their fellowship, knowing they will become greater for the added thoughts. But they will not let any race stop the expansion of the Collective. And with their unified mind and unprecedented leader it will take a collective effort to stop them.
Risks and challenges
This project has quite a few things going for it in terms of risk management:
• Starbase Orion is a completed game which has been on the market for over a year. We don't need to worry about creating something new from scratch, it is here and it is ready to be ported.
• I am a veteran game developer with a long track record of delivering on projects. From "Vortex: Next Generation" in 2001 which won an Indie Games Festival, to "Big Bang Chess" which won two Apple Design Awards in 2004, to Solace (Mac/PC 2003), Starbase Command (iOS 2010) and Starbase Orion (iOS 2011).
• I have already plotted the course necessary to bring Starbase Orion to the target platforms. The plan allows for a majority of the current code to be reused, leaving less code to be rewritten. As you can see in the promo video, an early prototype is already functional across iOS, Android, and Mac (adding PC support will be the first task once the KickStarter is funded).
• I have been evaluating SmartFoxServer for several months (the custom replacement for GameCenter). SmartFoxServer is a powerhouse server that runs humungous worlds such as Club Penguin. Early results are very promising and I am excited to continue.
Google Play Store on Android and the Mac AppStore for Mac OS X. For Windows we would like to get on Steam, but that is undetermined at this point. KickStarter backers will be able to choose to receive a direct download of the game DRM-free on Android, Windows, and Mac.
Galactic Council: Special "Backer" badge in the new Starbase Orion in-game player profiles, access to private discussion forums during development of the port, access to closed beta releases, all previous reward tiers.