BT: What about in term of system requirements? By keeping system requirements low you opened the game up to more players. As a smaller developer do you find you really need to open yourself up to the largest possible audience?
Our past experience in the genre made an RTS title the safe choice for our team. We stretched quite a bit to implement the additional 4X game systems in Sins
. The assets necessary for today’s FPS would have been out of scope and we had no interest in that in the first place.
I believe the RT4X niche has served us very well. We were able to deliver something fresh without going head-to-head with any other games at release.
We kept the systems specs low to build a healthy community, rather than an elitist gamer clique. The great thing about Sins
is that it’s completely scalable. High-end machines can enjoy all the fancy visual effects and surprisingly low end machines can still run smoothly with bare bone icons.
BT: Sins was pretty open to modders also – do you think that helped the game as well?
For sure. We’ve been surprised by the technical proficiency and sheer number of modders that have worked with Sins
, even since early beta. It’s always exciting when a modder comes along and figures something out that we weren’t expecting. The level of modding activity for Sins
can mainly be attributed to the wealth of information and mod tools we’ve shared with the community.
We’ve taken a lot of time to create polished PDF documents and development tools. I think it has paid off – each new mod has the capacity to attract an audience that may not have previously considered the game. It really extends the lifetime, even for those who have been playing for months.
BT: Are you at all worried of the potential problems that opening a game to modders can have? I know some people at Ironclad used to be a Rockstar, and modding hasn’t gone too well for them in the past even when they didn’t support it…
The Hot Coffee
incident? Some would call that more of a hack exposing hidden content than a mod. In any case I would say modding increases the longetivity of games. It improves the community by getting people involved in developing their own content with their own ideas. The Counterstrike
mod for Half-Life
for Warcraft 3
are great examples.
Unfortunately we have no hidden capital ship sex scenes for modders to expose in Sins of a Solar Empire
BT: One thing that the game got a bit slated for though was the utter lack of singleplayer. It’d seem to me that making a strategy game which is entirely skirmish and multiplayer based is very brave – why didn’t you add a basic singleplayer mode in?
I think it is very important to make the distinction between single-player and having a campaign. A large percentage of our customers have been playing the single-player scenarios and custom maps for months with no desire to touch multiplayer.
4X games typically don’t have a campaign. They provide a non-linear ‘sandbox’ mode where the player creates their own story. RTS campaigns tend to be drawn-out linear tutorials, with nothing left for the single player afterwards.
Regardless, we did consider the idea of an RTS-style campaign to help convey the game’s deep lore. The reason we put the campaign on hold was simple: We felt it was prudent to devote our limited resources towards strong gameplay and a solid engine with great replay value, than to develop an average game with a rushed campaign and very little replay value.
BT: I understand there’s an expansion pack on the way for the game – can you tell us about it?
I don’t have anything official on the expansion just yet