Developer Blog #1:
"What is Lord of Rigel?"
For our first developer blog, we wanted to touch on the diversity of topics we'll be covering, the rationale behind making Lord of Rigel to begin with, and why we're hoping that people like you will back us and help support our continued development. Each blog will cover different topics by each team member. These will range from basic design concepts, user interface (UI), art direction, to systems that might seem simple such as movement mechanics and the work that goes in to each of these things. These blogs also provide an opportunity to see the nitty gritty details of how the game works, and some of the rather hilarious bugs that arise and ways that we've had to sometimes adjust things from how they are on paper once we see them actually working. Overall they should give a pretty good sense of different parts of the game, and the approaches taken by different team members.
So what is Lord of Rigel?
We're developing the space strategy game we've wanted to play for over a decade. For all of its flaws, Master of Orion 2 (MOO2) is often viewed as a space strategy game that hasn't been succeeded. There are a number of excellent games on the market, some turn based, some real time that have been released in the last few years but we've felt that none of these titles have had the balance or character that MOO2 had despite being good in their own right.
Something that is "easy to learn hard to master" is easy to say, hard to design. But one of the major things that 4x games have is emergent gameplay and we want to capture that feel. At the same time, things like Good Old Games make it possible to play these old titles so making a high definition game where the game design is a copy of something that could drive its own car isn't necessary.
So what did we think were the strengths and weaknesses of a game still considered by most to be the king of space strategy games, and how to we improve on it in a market getting flooded by indie space games?
1) Master of Orion is based on tropes
The species and technologies in the game basically read like a list from tv tropes. Elder alien races, warp drives, people in lizard suits, and planet killers are all major parts of those games. We want to keep that same essential feeling in Lord of Rigel where you can load a ship with plasma cannons and fight the good fight against species that draw from major scifi concepts. The use of tropes also ironically gave the game its own character and atmosphere. Things such as space monsters and anomalies added considerable richness, and we feel that although these features are in many current games out there they lack the character that they had in MOO.
2) Master of Orion lets you tell your own story
These games let you create your own story with each game, but provide enough art and atmosphere to give a sense of world building. Other recent 4x games have gone very heavy with lore and pre-built scenarios. Giving species and the setting broad strokes to let the player use their imagination worked well for MOO. But at the same time, we want to provide more in depth backstory for those interested without letting it dominate the game or gameplay.
3) Master of Orion was intuitive
The base economic system of a strategy game is central to the entire game. The basic system of population equaling success (modified by conditions of a planet and things like infrastructure) in the Master of Orion games is easy to grasp. Colonizing good (Earth-like) planets leads to larger populations which fuel industry, research, and help with political capital on the galactic scene. There has been a wide range of economic systems in recent strategy games, but most aren't quite as easy to grasp as the system that MOO had. Similarly when it came to things such as combat or diplomacy the liberal use of scifi tropes made the game intuitive for its audience. You'd expect a laser to be less effective than a disruptor and a reptilian species might be much more warlike than a pacifistic federation of alien scientists. Keeping these easy to grasp ideas are central to us.
When you had more than half a dozen worlds, micromanagement became rather clumsy in Master of Orion. In Master of Orion 2 with having to construct buildings this became even more the case. Fortunately this is an area where many recent games have developed queues and AI management that makes life easier. This is one of the key areas we're wanting to improve to keep games flowing and fun even when managing hundreds of planets.
2) The End Game
Games in MOO could get very monotonous towards the end, with cleaning up things with "doom fleets." The victory conditions were also rather limited, especially compared to later games like Alpha Centauri. Our solution to this is going into the box of scifi tropes and having a cold war moderated by elder races in the larger galaxies. This forces alliances and a need to manage risk even when most of the galaxy has been colonized and players would otherwise prepare for "clean up duty." In Lord of Rigel, being too aggressive may earn the unwanted attention of one of the major elder races and break a fragile truce that could lead to an all out galactic war with the kid-gloves off and dire consequences for those living in a galaxy. Tied to this is our want to keep the game focused as a single player experience. Many things such as entire systems being obliterated work well in a single player context but become quite unbalanced in multiplayer. We're aiming first and foremost for a fun single player game that is well paced in all parts of the game (early, mid, and late game).
So, to answer what Lord of Rigel is: it's the game we've wanted to play for over a decade. A single player focused turn based grand space opera strategy game that draws from everything we've enjoyed playing in the past. We want to draw on the improvements from many current games (Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Endless Space, Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civilizations, Star Drive, Sword of the Stars to name but a few). Even some 4x games that have been more critically received have some valuable lessons that we're worked in to our design.
Future dev blogs will focus more on specific issues. We hope that you'll be interested in following our development. In November we'll have a playable tactical and galaxy generation demo to show to coincide with our crowdfunding efforts to help finish development.