Shattered Suns

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Clear Crown Studios

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'Shattered Suns' - Developer Diary #1

by Rainier on Sept. 21, 2007 @ 6:37 p.m. PDT

Shattered Suns is a new science fiction real-time strategy game with unique features such as three-dimensional battles, a moving battlefield, player-designed units, unique economic challenges and an interactive campaign.

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.

Shattered Suns Developer Diary: Overall Game Design

My goal is to create the greatest-ever sci fi RTS game set in space. Well, maybe it?s a lofty goal, but it helps to shoot for the moon, right? I love real-time strategy (RTS) games. I love sci fi and space ships. So naturally I was excited when we set out to create Shattered Suns.

Shattered Suns is 100% RTS through and through. It?s not a space flight simulator. It?s not a space exploration game. It?s not an RPG set in space. It?s all about building an empire of space stations and space ships, amassing a powerful fleet, and laying waste to your enemies. We decided early on to design Shattered Suns specifically for RTS players. We want to make a game that any RTS player will love, even those who don?t usually get into sci fi or space games.

Unlike land-based RTS games though, Shattered Suns action happens in all three dimensions. Your space ships attack from above or below as easily as from the sides. Making three-dimensional space flight easy for players wasn?t easy for us. Some space games force you to plot a ship?s coordinates by clicking on a 2D horizontal plane, then clicking again to set the Z-axis coordinate. Personally, I get a headache just thinking about it. When I?m in the heat of battle, I just want to right click somewhere in a fraction of a second and have my units go there. No fuss, no muss. So, we designed the simplest, easiest way we could think of to give players (and me) the power to send units anywhere in three-dimensional space without having to take a college course in Cartesian geometry. We came up with a simple two-click approach. You right click wherever you want your ships to go on screen. Then you move the mouse up or down to adjust how far away from the camera the ship should be when it arrives. Then you right click again to finish issuing the travel command. If you just double-click the right mouse button somewhere on screen, the ships just go where you pointed keeping the same distance from the camera. That way you can easily double-click to instantly move your units around a battle scene without spending any time at all thinking about three-dimensional coordinates. The UI really makes fighting three-dimensional battles feel just like the two-dimensional battles in land-based RTS games, only you have all the power that comes with attacking from above or below.

One improvement I wanted to make over traditional RTS games is to stop the repetitive "build up and blow up" cycle. Anyone who plays RTS games a lot knows how easy it is for some games to get into a rut. Game after game after game you do the same thing: build up your economic resources, then build up your military, then go blow up your enemy. As fun as this rut may be, it still gets old fast. So, we decided to dig players out of the rut with three features that have turned out to be extremely important to the overall design: local economics, customized units, and moving planets.

We keep the economic challenge from getting old with local economics. Like any RTS game, you need to control territory, collect resources, and spend those resources wisely to gain the economic might you need to be victorious. But in Shattered Suns, each space station has its own localized, self-contained economy with its own resources and money that can be spent on new research, station upgrades, or building new ships. When you take over a new planet and build new stations to protect it, you?ll need to create supply lines to run resources from your older space stations to the new stations until the new stations have enough resources to defend themselves. You also have to keep re-supplying stations that spend a lot building new ships. But you don?t have to micromanage the economics. You can easily create a transport network using ships that automatically ferry resources and money back and forth between space stations. Just make sure your supply lines don?t fall under enemy attack, especially when planets change position as they orbit.

But unit customization is by far the best feature for getting out of the "build up and blow up" routine. We?ve gotten a lot of positive response from pre-release players for the customization feature, which is really very revolutionary for RTS games. Most RTS games only offer canned units. They?re usually either resource collectors, builders, melee units, or ranged units. Each unit has a preset number of hit points and attack points. You can upgrade units with research or other goodies, but that?s about it. The most sophisticated games give you a hero you can customize with a unique appearance and a few special abilities. But with Shattered Suns, you build a 100% customized fleet of ships and stations. Every single unit in the fleet is exactly the way you want it to be designed. And the customization options run very deep. You decide which weapons a unit will have and how many attack points the weapon will have. You decide how many hit points the unit?s shields, armor, and other defenses will have. You can go even further and decide if a weapon will have area damage and, if so, how big the area will be. You design how fast a weapon fires and how fast a ranged weapon?s rounds will travel when flying toward a target. You can even decide what kind of delivery system a ranged weapon uses, such as plasma charges, guided missiles, long-range missiles, or beams. And, to make customization really sweet, you can even decide what kind of payload a weapon will carry. Some weapons have explosives that do direct damage. Others take down the enemy?s shields. Still others upload viruses to their systems, causing the enemy ships to come under your control or even initiate their self-destruct sequences. And that?s just the weapons. You also customize ship engines, cargo holds, building capabilities, and mining capabilities to decide how fast ships will travel, how many resources they can carry, how fast they can mine for resources, and how fast they can build new stations or ships.

Customized units really punch up the game play in a big way. With most RTS games, I usually pick one favorite unit?usually something that flies or something that?s really tough in melee attack?and then I just max out how many I have of that unit, upgrade them as much as possible, and then go on a killing spree. Rock, paper, scissors balancing rarely gets me out of my rut. With Shattered Suns though, ship customization changes everything. I can create one class of ships that upload a virus to an enemy station, knocking out its shields. Then I can create another class of ships that shock the station?s computer system so it can?t fire its weapons at me. Then I can create a third class of ships that run in and lay waste to the defenseless station. A fourth class of ships might even have an area shield to defend all my ships against enemy units trying to defend their station. Using different ship designs to create squads that work together can give you a formula that?s vastly superior to any single ship design.

The other feature that catapults me out of my rut is moving planets. Every game in Shattered Suns has a star at the center of a solar system. Every planet orbits the star and every moon orbits a planet. Space stations control territory around planets and moons. So, if I control a planet that?s rich in resources and I?m mining the planet for all it?s worth, I might not be worried about the planet?s defenses as long as it?s far away from the enemy. But in another ten minutes, one of the enemy?s planets might orbit close enough to become a serious threat, wipe out all my mining ships, and take control of the planet. As another example, I might create supply lines of transport ships running resources between two planets. As the planets orbit, the supply lines could grow longer and longer and even end up crossing through enemy territory. Or another example, if I launch an invasion to take control over another planet, I have to worry about how long the invasion lasts. If it lasts too long, the planets may get farther apart, causing my reinforcements to take too long getting to the battle. Moving planets mean an ever-changing battlefield requiring constant changes to my strategy. It?s tough to stay in a rut when nothing on the map stays in one place.

Although local economics, customized units, and moving planets are not exactly standard RTS features, we?ve gone to great lengths to stay true to the RTS genre. Although you have command over every ship, we avoid the need to micromanage. That way you can stay focused on the grand strategy. For example, we don?t blur the line between space RTS and space simulation by making you customize every ship. Instead, we give you a way to create a custom ship class. Then you can mass-produce any number of ships using your new ship class just like any normal RTS lets you mass-produce canned units. We?ve married the best of traditional RTS games with a space-based sci fi theme in the hopes of creating a truly great sci fi RTS game set in space.

By Tom White, Game Designer
September 21, 2007

Clear Crown Studios plans to release the final version of the game to retail stores and on-line distribution sites on October 5, 2007.

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