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A single unspoken decision made early in the Stardock / Ironclad partnership led to a host of positive results that might seem obvious in hindsight, but were not at all straight forward at the time.
1. The decision for Ironclad and Stardock to team up on game design elements.
This would fundamentally alter Sins' original design in exchange for a design that mixed the best of both Stardock and Ironclad's game experiences.
Examples include how the technology tree works, unlimited resources, the creation of metal and crystal resources that are harvested from asteroids, the types of ships and their roles, etc.
Nearly every game design element and mechanic had input from both teams. Had this not been done, odds are the reviews and sales of Sins of a Solar Empire would have been dramatically different.
2. The decision for Stardock and Ironclad to team up on marketing.
Just as it's unusual for a publisher to be intimately involved in the game design, it's also unusual for the developer to be intimately involved in the publisher's marketing program.
Ironclad was involved in nearly every major aspect of the marketing of Sins -- from the creation of the Sins of a Solar Empire website, to game magazine advertising, to web assets, to teaming up on web community support. Even in terms of providing technical support to users, the two teams integrated their resources.
An early Sins HUD featured building on the surface of planets, an early Empire Tree with associated sorting options, three harvestable resources, research points, and the ability to buy/sell them on the Black Market from the main screen (which is making a return in version 1.1).
3. The decision to release the game in February 2008 instead of August 2007.
This was, at the time, a significant gamble. Missing the Christmas season was a potentially catastrophic problem. However, by releasing in February 2008, Sins of a Solar Empire not only became a much better, richer gaming experience, it was released onto a market with virtually no competition.
There are very few major PC titles scheduled for release until fall 2008, giving Sins an opportunity to maintain significant retail stocking levels far longer than is normal. One can imagine the sales of Sins of a Solar Empire had it been released in fall 2007 against BioShock, Crysis, and the other major titles that came out during the Christmas season.