Postmortem: Ironclad/Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire
April 28, 2008 Page 5 of 6
What Went Wrong
As successful as Sins of a Solar Empire is, not everything went perfectly. A lot of the problems were simply a lack of budget and time.
1. No single player campaign.
Both Stardock and Ironclad recognized the need for one, but the budget and time to do something of equal creativity and quality to the core game was simply not there.
With Ironclad's team, Stardock's game team produced the opening cutscene that introduces players to the Sins of a Solar Empire universe.
But from there on, players play random maps and scenarios rather than going through a story-driven campaign.
This was the most widely raised criticism in reviews; on a game that averaged almost a nine out of 10, one can only imagine what the scores would have been with a campaign.
2. Vocal public beta testers were able to convince us to change features that would have been better left untouched.
For example, the beta allowed the AI to take over for dropped players in multiplayer. However, beta testers complained that with the save/restore option, players could just restart the game and having an AI player get involved interfered with the experience.
As a result, the feature of allowing computer players to pick up after dropped players was removed in the retail release (it was added back in 1.03).
3. The released computer players weren't as strong as they could have been.
Sins of a Solar Empire's retail release had computer AI that was as good if not better than most RTSes, but it was considerably weaker than what is commonly found in turn-based 4X games. This was simply a function of time and lack of opportunity to test it against live human opponents.
Version 1.03 took the experience of playing online and incorporated it into the AI. That said, the released version didn't offer a computer AI level that "cheated" (got more resources than the player).
AIs that get advantages are non-ideal, but making sure players are always challenged trumps any philosophical positions. As with GalCiv II, AI development will be ongoing throughout the lifetime of the game.
Left: Concept drawing for the Advent Halcyon Carrier.
Right: Advent Halcyon Carrier as it appeared in a near final version of the game.
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