StarDrive - Spacey Action/4X Game

Guh, I just got home and mine still says “Beta” on it. Boooooo.

And AI can sell a game if it’s as awesome as Distant Worlds, for example. This game is no Distant Worlds, but it’s nodding in that direction.

Um … it shouldn’t. The beta should be disabled at this point, and you’ll need to download the game. Check in your non-downloaded games on Steam.

Other folks are reporting the same issue on the official forums. Whee

I think you’re mostly right… Except that a good AI often blends into the landscape in these games so that the player has more fun enjoying other features. Illogical/bipolar diplomatic AI is infamous in TBS games, and it’s one of the recurring complaints I’ve seen about Total War games. I assume that discourages sales (it has discouraged me in the past). Semi-logical and diplomatic AI is part of why I like MOO2; likewise with the fact that the enemy will use all of the features to some effect (stealing your tech with spies, launching space and land invasions, etc.)

I was a big fan of Swords of the Stars 1, but I was sorely put off SotSII because of their inelegant responses when I inquired about their AI development plans. (And the fact that their lead dev. is wildly obnoxious). They basically dismissed any questions about the AI, preferring instead to focus on pretty pictures from the new graphics engine. That was a red flag for me, and I decided to give the SotS2 release a wide berth even before their launch turned into an epic disaster.

And of course, a big part of my interest in this game is the AI, both as a clever automation/convenience device, and as an interesting array of opponents.

Could AI theoretically sell games? Sure. My statement was simply that it doesn’t. You can’t put it on a box cover like flashy graphics and judging from the legions that buy up nearly lobotomized Total War or Civilization games, I think it is wishful thinking to believe that AI has any kind of value in development resources, marketing, or ultimately sales. Stumping for the marketing value of AI in single player strategy games is unfortunately akin to Dark Souls fans lamenting McDonalds ads on xbox live (in that it matters a whole lot to a small group that doesn’t matter in the overall movement of the profit dollars in the much larger ecosystem). I wish it was not so, but I am pretty sure this is the current reality of the industry.

Anyway. First game down. [Khan voice] SPACCCCEEE BEARRRSSS!

I played as humans and before I really new what I was doing I got my nice souped-up flagship blown to space dust by independent pirates in a neighboring system. This set me back quite a bit as the rest of the universe saw me as an invalid and proceeded to bully me to no end. Especially said bears. They quickly hoped on my only satellites and try as I may, I could not beat a katana wielding bear with marines in power armor. I did eventually get the tech to blast every ship they had out of the sky though. So the only bears left were on the ground. Which was enough as my complete lack of understanding of how to balance a checkbook in this game seemed to result in system after system revolting until eventually like 1 bear and a cub made it into a transport and flew all the way to Earth to rofl stomp the rebels and what was left of my civilization. Damn dirty bears.

Likes: Ship designing and good showing of an empire builder in real time

Confused: economy and ground combat

AI: No concrete data. I was freaking clueless though and yet they didn’t show up on my doorstep with enough starships to blot out Sol or anything. However it was set to normal and the news events told a tale of them beating each other up a lot.

Overall I like the game so far. I think it is a mistake to try to compare it to anything though. It isn’t Master of Orion, Sins of a Solar Empire, SotS, or anything else. It is its own thing and comparing it to the usual suspects is probably like chasing the dragon on the next Master of Magic, Dungeon Keeper, or your first MMO. Expectations based on memory probably won’t help first impression of Stardrive. That said, I will utterly contradict myself and say Stardrive strikes me as like Hinterland. It is a pausable strategy game that runs in real time, borrows from many proven systems while wrapping them up in a totally unique way, and does all this in a well presented yet clearly indy way. The content is not as deep as a mainstream title, but it offers a lot of shuffle to give a rogue-like re-playability.

I thought it was pretty obvious by the examples I gave that I was making a stupid joke. I need to work on the obviousness of my stupid jokes…


Hehe… Sorry. Obvious to everyone else perhaps. I didn’t even know about the mysterious doctors of Bioware, so I thought you might be casting aspersions on the lucky wealthy people that get to live out my dreams.

Anyway, back on topic: Is it too soon to post the meta-critic (user) score?

The user score average is 8.7!
Argoss didn’t like the game, apparently on the grounds that it has too many positive reviews already. However, Rancidgber gave it an 8/10, saying that it’s a great game but it needs a bit more beta testing and polish before release.
Now I’ll go back to lurking in this thread for a few more days in the hopes that some Qt3’ers will post their latest impressions.

Weird stuff - I went to play the beta last night after Tom was asking for more opinions, and was told it was unable to be played in offline mode (I normally keep Steam in that mode). I scratched my head and noticed the game didn’t show up in my library. I freaked a little, but flipped to online and noticed it was suddenly there without the “-beta” tag, but not downloaded. I downloaded and played a few hours (intending only one hour, so I think that’s a good sign for the game). So what you’re saying, Brian, is that it still shows up in your Steam library as Stardrive-beta? That’s some pretty strange stuff. I wonder if it has to do with the “beta in a beta” approach the dev took, and that extra layer confused Steam’s system.

Likely so, Steam doesn’t even know I own it if I go to the game’s store page. Weeeeeird.

Damn, Brian, I dunno what’s going on there. When I looked at Steam, “Stardrive Beta” had disappeared and I had Stardrive as a title to be installed in my Library. Not sure what’s going on with you or other people. :(

I had to shut steam down and restart it and switched my library views around (games installed to all games etc) and that is when the beta disappeared and the full game showed up in my library. I was then able to download and install it.

I think it is Steam sizing you up, looking over your library, and deciding that you have had enough space games. Basically, the recently implimented Steam Director AI is trying to enforce an intervention. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t play here…

Well, after playing it some more this morning, I’ll give it the official “I like it” seal of approval. I did crash once, so there’s obviously some more patching needed. However, the game play was fun. It could really stand to have a true tutorial, but the game is fairly intuitive once the learning curve is overcome. Given the ship design mentality behind it, I think this game will be a little less formulaic than most 4X and RTS titles. However, I can still see myself thinking of build orders, what tech is best first, etc…

Some things of note for those who haven’t dived in, yet (and take all of this with a grain of salt, because I’m a newb):

Generic advice
[li]Your tax slider is important. Tax too much, and you won’t have much research and will suffer production penalties. Tax too little, and you’re not going to get much bang for your buck[/li][li]When rushing production, each hammer also costs one credit/gold/spacebuck.[/li][li]You’re not a better person for not hitting pause (the spacebar). Do it. A lot.[/li][li]Scouts are handy - you want them to be fast and unarmed.[/li][/ul]

Race selection
[li]There’s a plethora of options, so play around with things as you like. The points are balanced fairly well to avoid excessive munchkining.[/li][li]The other races do seem to have distinct personalities, so if there’s somebody you don’t like to play against then you might want to choose to play as them.[/li][/ul]

Colonizing notes
[li]three things matter: food (corn), production (hammer), and population limits. [/li][li]For food and production, a rating of 1 seems “meh.” [/li][li]For population, large planets can hold close to 20. Small or poorly inhabitable planets can be less than 1. [/li][li]All three factors can be boosted after you’ve colonized and you have researched the appropriate techs.[/li][li]Freighters can ferry goods between planets, but they can ALSO ferry population if you pick that selection, and that’s especially huge when starting out a new colony. [/li][/ul]

Research Screen notes
[li]Dang, research takes a while. [/li][li]There are not a whole lot of techs, but more than it appears at first glance because of how it is organized (I count 87 standard techs, plus you can unlock techs in a “secret” branch along the way by blowing up the remnant forces)[/li][li]As with most games like this, some tech will not be overly useful to you depending on your play style and ship builds, but they may unlock future techs that are a little more helpful.[/li][/ul]

Diplomacy Screen notes
[li]It is HARD to be successful with your agents, and when they fail there is a good chance of them getting killed. The most tempting targets are, obviously, the hardest to pull off (like stealing techs)[/li][li]With the above in mind, make many of them and train them up to level 10 as quickly as possible. The list scrolls down, so don’t feel inhibited.[/li][li]When an agent is idle, they’re listed as “Defending.” Like it sounds, that means they’re working counter-intelligence and will make it harder for your opponents to steal from or spy on you.[/li][li]When you fail at attempting to pull something off against an opponent, they’ll be pretty ticked off at you (their anger level goes up). Don’t steal and spy on your friends, or they won’t be friends too much longer.[/li][li]Posing an unbalanced trade can have consequences on how an opponent views you. Also, the bottom selection for your disposition when doing so can apparently impact that.[/li][/ul]

Ship Building Screen notes
[li]You need a power source, an engine, and command structure (cockpit/bridge) for each ship. [/li][li]Energy weapons need a power source nearby and you’ll also want fuel cells to use as rechargeable batteries as well as fuel, while ballistics & missiles require ammo and you’ll want ordinance containers for that. [/li][li]Want to build something to orbit around a planet? Hit <B> and it opens a special build menu. Assuming you’ve got a design, drag it to where you want it placed within one of the blue circles around a planet. The nearest colony (including that planet if it’s yours) will then spit out a special disposable construction ship to fly there and get it done.[/li][li]Default designs are all fine and dandy, but abandon them sooner than later and especially after you get some special techs. Plan your designs carefully.[/li][li]“Point defense” doesn’t mean “just shoots down missiles.” These are your rapid-fire pea shooters, and are often a fighter’s main weapon. In swarms, they can be deadly.[/li][li]Energy weapons are not always better at everything - in the above instance, laser point defense does far less DPS, although it has a much wider firing arc and therefore can stay on target longer. Add to that the benefit of not needing to replenish ammo at a base or what not, and you have some interesting trade offs.[/li][li]Mass matters, and you want as little as possible when it comes to speed and maneuverability. Of course, you have to balance that against things like armor.[/li][/ul]

Combat notes
[li]Use fleets - it’s sooooo much easier to manage tons of ships. Just be careful with the generic orders like “defend the empire” - that will send them in random patrols.[/li][li]ALWAYS focus fire. Your ships will still fire at targets of opportunity, but will keep making passes against their primary target. This will stop its shields from getting back up, and allow you to take firepower of theirs out of the equation more quickly.[/li][li]Numbers are your friend, big time. The more ships you’ve got flying around, the better off you’ll be.[/li][li]Don’t forget to repair - there’s a little button on a slide out menu that allows you to order a fleet to go back and repair and reload.[/li][li]Brings more troops than you think you need for ground combat. [/li][li]Speaking of which, once produced a troop will be stationed on the planet it was built. Right-click on its icon (not the same as its square) and it will take off and look like a fighter in orbit. Select it and any other brethren you’re sending and then right-click on your target planet. Once they’ve arrived, select the target planet and choose the flag button at its south pole to open up the ground combat screen. From there, you can choose to bombard with ships and/or land troops (select all when you do that) [/li][li]If you get a notification of an anomaly, that means you’ll need to land troops there to investigate. Land plenty, just in case ;)[/li][/ul]

Sorry Brian. Truly, if I could sneak you a space game fix, I would. I am not sure what all I am, but game enabler is probably up there. Hope you get it worked out soon.

Great information Dan_theman! I think you are further along the learning curve than I am, but I agree on the sentiment that this is feeling like “I like it” material. Can you help me with fuel issues? I am designing ships and putting them in fleets that are set to move as a group, but they seem to stutter across the map as they drop out of warp over and over. I clicked though the ships and I have say 10 or so frigates with 70/70 reactor (not going down) and two gunships with around 2000 reactor but one of the gunships is draining it all and stopping the fleet until it recharges to 300 or so. Why is only one ship draining? Why is the gunship with the huge reserve running dry before my commuter 70/70 ships?

Oh, as a general note about AI: while I still have no idea how good it is overall, I am reading that it will use your designs over time. That is as I get good and min max the snot out of my Terran chassis, but then play as the Space Bears, the AI now playing Terran will build my designs from previous games. That seems a cool way to enhance long term difficulty as early reports are that the default designs are kind of placeholderish (sorry Merriam).

Regarding the stuttering, I couldn’t give a firm answer on that one - I assumed it was because I had ships which were faster than others, and they’ll move as a group when organized as a fleet (I believe there’s another selection to make them move at top speed, which may clear that up but will also result in the ships arriving at different times). What it sounds like is the commuter ships are bleeding off the fuel from your gunship, but again I have no idea there - just guessing.

Heh great post, Dan! And no worries, the dev sent out new keys, so I now have the final non-beta version! Time to work on that review/let’s play!

I’ve been playing the beta (will play the release tonight), so maybe this is cleared up, but I’m confused about starlanes/glowpaths. I see all the AI’s creating them, but I can’t figure out how to build the gizmo that creates them. What tech/build is it?

The map interface basics that annoyed me months ago are still annoying me.

The dev gathered a whole bunch of UI suggestions from the community and set aside time to work on them, but hardly implemented any. On at least two different occasions he said that he was working on UI scaling, but that never came to fruition so it is still barely playable at higher resolutions for those with less gifted ocular capacity. Ridiculous stuff like ‘Esc key to zoom out’, and no key remapping. And no equivalent zoom in function. And it won’t zoom out to the farthest level either, you still need to hit a tiny interface button for that. Zooming with the mousewheel is still horribly slow.

Back to waiting for patches, wake me up when the basics are there.

*edit: Seems that rather than add in a mouse wheel sensitivity option, the solution to the slow mouse zoom was to add in a ‘ctrl’ modifier, so now you have to hold the ctrl key most of the time. And of course like the other modifier keys in game it is left-ctrl only, a right pain for lefties, which is another thing that was brought up months ago.