We recently attended a presentation of the 4X space MMO Starborne by community manager Arelius Areliusarsson in which he discussed what we can expect from the game and when we should expect it to release.
Starborne is an ambitious, real-time strategy MMO modelled in keeping with the 4X genre. Similarities can be drawn with EVE Online, with both featuring grand battles that take place over prolonged periods, but Starborne will also focus on infrastructure as well as ships.
The game will allow you to create buildings and grow your empire from starting with only a single space station and expanding into a whole civilisation. You will be able to build outposts that defend your station or domain buildings that allow for better espionage to disrupt rival factions. You can also follow different paths of growth instead, focussing on things like commerce and using industrial power to increase your influence, so there are plenty of ways to customise your empire.
Starborne will also feature a card system that will help you further customise your playstyle. You will get cards from the in-game missions, and the ones you don't want can be broken down and exchanged for currency to buy other cards, similar to Hearthstone. These missions will take varying amounts of time and will also act as obstacles to pace online play.
"So this is a massively multiplayer game and it cannot be a turn based game because nobody is going to wait for 20,000 people to finish their turn, so all of your actions take real time, whether that is completing your orders. If you give orders to your fleets or building stuff in your stations it all takes real time to complete, this is how we mimic turns."
As your empire grows you will eventually bump into other players online and this is where the player has to make certain decisions about how they want to approach the game. You can choose the diplomatic approach and reason with your enemies or utilise your military strength to eliminate them and take their resources, although Areliusarsson does say that "it's better to have friends close to you then it is enemies. You want your enemies far away."
With the games being quite drawn out, it can take up to six months to finish one game, and players will no doubt have opportunities to create numerous allies and enemies. With the last two months of the six month campaign the end game phase starts, where alliances will scramble to complete their victory conditions as they try to stop other factions from completing theirs. Areliusarsson was also eager to touch on how big they intend to make the online maps and how many players can participate, saying:
"Eventually we will have maps for 20,000 players and to put that into context the largest map in Civilisation 5 was about 10.5k hexes, our single seamless map is going to be 1.5 million hexes."
In relation to the game's release schedule Areliusarsson said: "the game is being scheduled for soft launch in about a year, an open beta and at that time we will have a PC client and a mobile companion app." Areliusarsson also touched on the fact that it is not certain what features the app will have on launch, but eventually they are aiming to have the entire game client available on mobile.
Starborne is a free to play game, which obviously raises concerns about the pay-to-win aspect some games have in this model. Areliusarsson was quick to quell these worries saying: "Solid Cloud is a company that is very PVP orientated, however we monetise we are going to keep in mind that we do not make the game a pay to win game, that's not a game we want to make. We would rather try to target people's impatience rather than their greed for victory."
You can check out the Starborne Alpha at the Starborne website. Is this grand a game too ambitious or something that could be genuinely epic?
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