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Sins of a Solar Empire is a real-time strategy game that combines many elements typically seen in 4X (turn-based) games. Released in February 2008, Sins of a Solar Empire arrived on the scene with little fanfare. By March 2008, Sins was one of the top three best selling PC games at retail, despite most of its sales coming through digital downloads.
In addition, it was also the highest rated new game of 2008, sweeping editor's choice awards from Gamespot, PC Gamer, Games for Windows, GameSpy, IGN, and many more. This is the story of how this remarkable game came to be and more interestingly, how closely it skirted disaster. We will explain how the unique partnership of developer Ironclad and publisher Stardock took what could have been a run-of-the-mill strategy game and turned it into one of the biggest PC gaming sensations in recent years. The original concept for Sins of a Solar Empire came from the board game Buck Rogers and the Battle for the 25th Century by TSR, which was played extensively by members of the Sins development team in their youth. However, it wasn't until many years later, in the fall of 2003, that some former members of Barking Dog Studios (Homeworld Cataclysm, Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon) and Rockstar Vancouver (Bully) struck out on their own to create Ironclad Games, and began to develop new technology that would eventually be used to bring that idea to life. Originally, the goal was just to experiment to see if the "RT4X" concept was possible -- could a real-time strategy game with much of the pacing, depth, and strategy of 4X work?
Ironclad's primary goals shifted at this point to fleshing out the main gameplay elements, continuing refinement of the user interface, starting production on the art assets, and finding a suitable partner to help them bring Sins to market. Unfortunately, Ironclad's efforts to find a partner were consistently hampered by the "three strikes you're out" philosophy which goes roughly as follows: if you are (1) a new company, (2) with a new intellectual property, and (3) you are in a new genre, your game is considered commercial suicide and almost no one will even take a quick look at what you have, let alone give it some serious consideration.
Convinced that they had something special, Ironclad persisted and eventually met a company that instantly understood what they were trying to do, recognized the game's potential, and was perfectly suited to bringing it to market. Originally, Ironclad hoped to release Sins of a Solar Empire in February 2007, but after much discussion, the game was pushed to August 2007 so that it could be fleshed out.
Stardock proposed that the title be pushed to a February 2008 release in order for the game to continue to be beefed up with features and content. And while Stardock was providing advances to help with those costs, six more months would push back many other projects Ironclad had hoped to begin on. 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. 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. 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. While it was tempting for the team to make the Iron Engine (the engine behind Sins of a Solar Empire) have Battlestar Galactica-like visuals, the decision was made to make the game look really good on the widest possible existing installed base of video cards. Sins still has phenomenal visuals, even on lower end systems, but doesn't include DirectX 10 support (for instance). Like with Galactic Civilizations II, Sins of a Solar Empire includes no on disk copy protection.
This left the game open for piracy, but the calculation Stardock had made with Galactic Civilizations II was that more users would buy it as a result of not being inconvenienced than would be lost from piracy.
Having a robust and easy to use save and restore option for multiplayer helped make Sins a compelling strategy game for a previously untapped demographic of PC gamers. The interesting part is that Ironclad originally implemented this feature solely for the purposes of tracking down multiplayer bugs before recognizing its marketability and gameplay advantages. 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. 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).


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.
AIs that get advantages are non-ideal, but making sure players are always challenged trumps any philosophical positions.
In the fall of 2007, it was difficult getting the general PC gaming media to give Sins of a Solar Empire the time of day. Impulse takes all of Stardock's first-party applications and all of the games it sells (both first and third party) and combines them into a single platform. It was hoped that Impulse would be ready for release by Sins' launch and included in the retail package.
On the PC, there is no standard way for games to interact with other users over the Internet.
The good news is version 1.1 will include groundbreaking new network technology that should eliminate this problem altogether. The biggest lesson we learned is the importance of making sure that the developer and publisher are compatible. From Stardock's perspective, the experience on Sins of a Solar Empire cemented its commitment to ensuring that any games it publishes are developed by studios that view game design as an iterative, collaborative process where the strengths of both teams are combined. Developer Ironclad Games and publisher Stardock Entertainment have teamed up to bring you the first micro-expansion pack to Sins of a Solar Empire. The demo is very old, so the actual game that you'd be buying will probably run a little better (and it has many new things that the demo didn't have).
Sins of a Solar Empire has emerged as one of the most popular PC strategy games of the year. I think this thread should be updated as each of the 3 mini-expansions comes out and afterwards when the major expansion comes out for the campaign, so that newbies and regular players will be keep abreast of the changes. One thing that new played need to understand is that when they colonise a new plant, that planet has negative income. Why do I mention this - because I see a some new players coming online and wondering why they are getting worked so hard.
If you have an Internet connection, you're almost better off playing on-line because you can play on the Internet against AI players. And what annoys me even more is that the enemy AI don't seem to have a problem with cooredenating attacks and defenses with each other. Richer content, access to many features that are disabled for guests like commenting on the forums. The result is a title with immense scalability as players can zoom in to see individual freighters delivering cargo to trade ports or zoom out to see multiple star systems orbiting distant suns all in a single fluid mouse motion.
However, it quickly took the game industry by storm thanks to its unique design, addictive gameplay, and grass roots community. Ironclad had playable builds up and running very early to test out new ideas, expose unforeseen gameplay issues (of which there were many), get a head start on pacing (which would turn out to be the most difficult problem) and to try and hone the overall fun factor. The game featured fleets of space-faring warships which were moved about on a strategic map and led by powerful hero characters with special abilities. After a year of almost pure prototyping, experimentation, and just trying out wild ideas Ironclad was convinced the idea would work, and self-funded development began on Sins in the winter of 2005.
Stardock felt Sins had a lot of potential as a AAA PC game release, if it was able to have enough content incorporated into it by the release date.
The game's potential convinced Stardock that if more content and balancing could be integrated, Sins might be the top strategy game of the year. Had this not been done, odds are the reviews and sales of Sins of a Solar Empire would have been dramatically different. 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. The decision to develop the 3D engine to support a wider variety of graphics cards and PC systems. Ironclad iterated on the HUD and the overall UI probably more than any other part of the game, knowing it was critical to making the RT4X concept playable. Vocal public beta testers were able to convince us to change features that would have been better left untouched. This was simply a function of time and lack of opportunity to test it against live human opponents.


That said, the released version didn't offer a computer AI level that "cheated" (got more resources than the player).
Only physical trips by the CEO of Stardock to particular game magazines secured any serious game coverage in some cases. Stardock failed to get Impulse, its next-generation digital distribution platform, completed in time for release with Sins of a Solar Empire. Even with a six month long multiplayer beta, there were still users who had a hard time dealing with personal firewalls and their routers (99% of users have no problem but 1% of thousands of users is still a lot of people). If Stardock and Ironclad hadn't gotten along so well, the game itself would likely have been very different with very different results. Could Sins have gotten higher scores if it had waited another six months and incorporated a single player campaign, stronger AI and more content? In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page.
It is that rare real-time strategy game that has enough depth to engage the player long-term in terms of single player gaming and has a very fun multipayer experience. A roid needs one upgrade and everything else needs two to remove this negative income and allow it to go positive. They have unimproved planets and therefore have no income (in some cases negative so they end up with 0 credits available to them - lucky the game doesn't allow your credits to go negative!!!). Then, make sure you have a ship in the wormhole's gravity well, select the ship and tell it to move to the center of the wormhole. Sins of a Solar Empire combines trade, diplomacy, culture, and of course military might into a single epic gaming experience.
The key would be to find a promising game being made by an extremely talented development studio. 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. Nothing is more frustrating than a game being interrupted due to a dropped player or just not having enough time to finish a session. Different planet types have a different number of upgrade, thereby limiting the max population and therefore the income from tax.
It will automatically go through if you have the research (if not it won't go through at all).
If my forward planet that is directly guarding the access to the star system is swamped with two or three huge fleets, don't you think it is a good idea to get that thumb out of your *** and send some help?!
I'd say the pop upgrade is the only thing that might wait if you play a small map and want to put the resources into more military early on. A release date of August 2008 would have put it 30 days out from the release of Spore as well as other major titles. Why not implement a 'Defend Here, Capture Here and Attack Here' buttons like in, say, Company of Heroes?
Sure, the AI in Company of Heroes is far from perfect, but at least you can tell it what to do and it will more or less do it.
In the distant future, humans have expanded out into the universe and operate as independent planets. Then one day, an alien race known as the Vasari showed up who are fleeing an unknown menace. But the real advancements are subtle because it’s in the unit AI (the stuff that happens automatically) where the artificial intelligence has really been improved. The Vasari are vastly more powerful than the humans are but luckily there aren't that many of them. What’s nice about Sins is that you can set your scouts to automatically go out and explore. Often, the values seem small but it's all relative when it comes to one on one combat, a 15% advantage in say armor can make the difference between victory and defeat. But in Sins of a Solar Empire, you are really directing an interstellar war and while you can go in and tell each fighter what to attack, you don’t need to and can have confidence that the computer is going to be intelligent with those units.



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