Game developer Daniel DiCicco saw a problem: while space sims have better graphics and more flair, they lack the depth games had back in the 90s—ship design has been dumbed down, battles at times fall to rock-paper-scissor complexity, and micro-managing off-world colonies is nearly non-existent.
“I have been yearning for a complete 4x experience with modern graphics and gameplay for many, many years,” DiCicco said via e-mail. “There are a lot of contenders out there but none that, in my opinion, get it just right.”
He hopes to change this with the upcoming indie game, StarDrive, a 4x Action Strategy game with the planet-colonizing, ship building, and cosmic armada battles that made the genre great. It tries doing everything right from classics like Masters of Orion 2, but with all the right modern features.
“StarDrive is really an effort to just make the game that I’ve wanted to see for years,” DiCicco said. “It’s a new, old-styled game.”
Players will start with a single planet and a small fleet of ships. They’ll then spread through the galaxy, explore new worlds, start colonies, and build a space empire. In the initial release, ship design and a complex combat engine will be key parts of the game.
The game is being created by Zer0sum games, where DiCicco is the sole staff member. But he plans to hire Australian-based artist Ariel Chai to create a vast array of alien races, and add to the ship designs he has already worked on. DiCicco raised funds to commission Chai through a highly-successful Kickstarter campaign.
He said making sure the game is well polished and fun to play is the first priority. “But to do StarDrive, I had to make some sacrifices with where I wanted to go,” he said.
Originally, he wanted to make a Role Playing Game similar to Escape Velocity, with players running trade routes and taking quests. “Some of this is definitely still in the game, but I’ve had to scale that vision back considerably to simply not try and do too much,” DiCicco said. “So for now, the focus is the 4x game.”
Even so, there are a few major features he plans to build along the way—the first being supporting and refining the battle arena multiplayer mode.
“There are no real competitors in the Space MOBA genre—at least nothing supported to the level of say, League of Legends,” he said. “In an ideal world, StarDrive would at least be in the mix there.”
Next on the list is to build a Role Playing Game within StarDrive. “I’m going to handcraft a universe and some story arcs, and give the player some purpose beyond empire building,” DiCicco said. “This can plug right into the existing game structure, but It’s going to have to wait for DLC because, again, the present focus is entirely on getting the 4x finished and polished.”
As he states on the Kickstarter page, “Whereas StarDrive is an homage to Masters of Orion 2, our next project will be more of an homage to Escape Velocity.”
Multiplayer will be a big part of the game. It will feature the same randomly-generated galaxy and alien AI opponents featured in the single-player game. DiCicco hopes to make it a four-player game.
“Basically, the full single-player experience will be available as a multiplayer mode,” he said.
Things are coming alone well. DiCicco said the multiplayer shell is complete, “and we are using the lidgren networking library for this—so I’m not reinventing the wheel here, just screwing the wheels on to my cart!”
DiCicco is currently taking pre-orders for StarDrive through his Kickstarter page.
Images courtesy of Zer0sum games