One of the most popular categories of computer games, the RTS genre boasts many noteworthy series such as Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Total War, and Warcraft, just to name a few. Already this year has seen the release of Supreme Commander and Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, the latest installments in two major RTS series.
Despite its success, and perhaps because of it, the RTS genre is currently facing a crisis of creativity. "RTS games have become too predictable," according to Chas. Cooper, Founder of Clear Crown Studios. "Players are demanding new strategic challenges beyond the usual fortify-gather-destroy formula. They don't want to give up what they already love about RTS games. They just want something new that will deliver a broader experience."
Shattered Suns delivers a "broader experience" for RTS fans by introducing five unique features, including three-dimensional battles, a moving battlefield, player-designed units, unique economic challenges, and an interactive campaign.
As a science fiction game set in space, Shattered Suns features dramatic battles between warring space ships that take place in all three dimensions of space. Players command their space ships to fly to any point in three-dimensional space with only one or two mouse clicks. By literally giving players a whole new dimension of game play, players can execute interesting new strategies and tactics, such as ambushing the enemy from above or assaulting an enemy from every possible angle.
Terrain is often a critical component of any good military strategy, and adding a third dimension to the battlefield's terrain is not the only feature Shattered Suns has to offer. The battlefield, composed of space stations orbiting moons and planets, which in turn orbit a star, is constantly in flux. As planets and moons move along their orbits, space stations that were once far apart draw nearer to each other, and others that were once nearby grow farther apart. A moving battlefield creates many new strategic challenges that will add new spice to the RTS genre for even the most experienced players. Assaults must be timed based on the alignment of planets. Invasions that take too much time will find their reinforcements dry up as the stations launching reinforcements get further and further from the enemy position being invaded. Once-remote outposts may suddenly find themselves coming under heavy fire from enemy forces on a planet that has just come within range. Poorly defended planets protected by heavily fortified planets will soon find themselves without defenses as the two planets grow ever farther apart.
While RTS games traditionally offer players a set of pre-designed units from which to choose, Shattered Suns gives the player the power to design any unit to fit the player's own strategic vision. Players may design space ships with customized weapons, shields, engines, and scanners. The player may even decide how many miners and builders will be included in a ship's crew. Giving the player the power to build an entire fleet of customized units also gives the player the ability to plan unique and creative strategies for victory that might otherwise be impossible.
In addition to introducing new features for waging war, Shattered Suns also innovates back on the home front. In most RTS games, workers gather resources that go into a common pool, allowing the player to spend resources collected from one location on any other location instantly. Shattered Suns offers a more realistic system of "distributed economics." Resources and credits are stored locally on each space station and can only be spent by each space station individually. Distributed economics creates a whole new set of economic and logistical challenges for would-be conquerors looking to expand. When taking over a new planet, newly built stations lack enough wealth to defend themselves. Wealthier stations from far away can send supply lines of resources and miners to help the new upstart stations accumulate enough wealth to become independent.
Perhaps the most innovative feature Shattered Suns promises to offer is an interactive campaign. While RTS games typically include campaigns with heroic storylines, most tell their stories through cinematic scenes the player watches passively before and after game play. Shattered Suns shatters this age-old formula with a whole new level of campaign game play that puts the player in the lead character's own shoes--or his ship to be more precise. The player plays the role of Max, a captain in the Statian space fleet who refuses to surrender as one of two dominant empires conquers his home sector, the last free sector in the known universe. While fleeing imperial occupation aboard his space ship, the player runs into many colorful characters who can help him survive, build a new fleet of guerrilla volunteers, and fight the occupation. The player does not simply sit back and passively watch cinematic scenes explain the story. Instead the player lives the story, choosing where to travel next, which characters to speak with next, what to say to each character, and where to launch the next attack on imperial forces. Using an instant message-like interface to hail characters aboard other ships, the player discovers a universe filled with fascinating characters. Good diplomacy and sharp decision making skills will help the player gain the support of characters who can help the player recruit volunteers for the player's guerrilla fleet before the next battle. By making the campaign story completely interactive and richly detailed, Shattered Suns will set a completely new standard for campaigns in future RTS games.
Clear Crown Studios plans to release the final version of the game to retail stores and on-line distribution sites on October 5, 2007.
More articles about Shattered Suns