Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter Interview

by on 7th Sep 2010

SotS2 has been stirring up some serious media interest since the day it was announced, and StrategyCore has been no exception. We contacted Kerberos Productions’ CEO Martin Cirulis asking for an interview. Despite the tight schedule he was kind enough to agree.

StrategyCore (SC): Firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak to StrategyCore. We are eager to hear anything about SotS2. We have intentionally waited until well after E3 and gathered every bit of information that came from game conventions and your forums afterwards. We have an undercover agent at your forums (not telling who) and he has spent a lot of time just reading and nagging you for more information.

We have already been told that the stars are not lonely any more. How much system diversity will we see? Will there be systems with only a single star, systems with multiple stars etc?

Martin Cirulis (MC): Star systems will be spread across the OBAFGKM classification range and will run the full gamut of size from Super Giants to Dwarfs. At this point star systems will stick to single stars and relatively inner planets. No dodging into the Oort Cloud.

SC: How random will systems be?

MC: They will be fully random.

SC: How will the solar system mechanics be represented? Will the rotations happen during strategic turns, changing (astrologically predictably?) the whole strategic situation from turn to turn?

MC: Planetary bodies will change their orbital positions from strat turn to strat turn based on standard astrophysics equations.

SC: Can you have multiple colonies in a system or is this being generalized to a base of some sorts?

MC: You will be able to have multiple colonies and bases in one star system.

SC: Can you colonize a planet in a system where an ally or an enemy already has a colony?

MC: Yes.

SC: Will there be specific planetary structures - space shipyards, asteroid bases, other in-system bases you can attack individually or is it colonies and their defensive infrastructure only?

MC: There will be orbital and system facilities in the form of modular starbases.

SC: Will we be able to grow the Swarm in our systems? Pretty please?

MC: There will be a space ecosystem that may tweak your desire for animal husbandry in different directions than the Swarm.

SC: Okay, now we're intrigued.

If we had to single out a thing that fascinated us the most in SotS Prime (fancy way of saying SotS1), we would have a hard time. But one of them is definitely how you managed to balance SIX ways of travel. Does the rise of Suul'ka and their orthodox Zuul companions mean a completely new way of FTL travel or did Zuul actually use their masters' invention all the time? If not, will we still get to see Zuul hurting space-time and it being healed?

MC: Yes ;)

SC: Yes? Yes what? Argh, we had it coming!

Speaking of travelling, will we be able to research intra-system propulsion separately from FTL this time?

MC: There will be various techs to modify STL inner system flight.

SC: We do wonder about this whole Zuul thing. We know some have gained a conscience and are with Liir. Will we be able to play as either Liir or Zuul race/side of the common empire?

MC: There are 2 Zuul alliances so to speak; the Liir/Zuul and the Suul'ka/Zuul both of which are playable in a logical way instead of just splitting the side into two sub factions.

SC: Morrigi are supposed to have a special attachment to independent colonies. Do they still have their SotS Prime style of racial empire?

MC: The Morrigi Empire in SotS2 will offer a grand, multi race vision but the Morrigi will still be the military power of the coalition.

SC: How do they interact with independent colonies? Do they control them directly as part of their empire, or is there another connection?

MC: The Morrigi will be able to incorporate various kinds of independent worlds and species and will control them directly through self-interest and mutual protection. The Morrigi will be able to more easily negotiate with and form pacts with independent worlds uninterested in joining larger factions directly.

SC: In the latest SotS Prime update you have added a new scenario and a new random, both teasers for things to come. What can we expect in terms of campaigns? Will they go deeper (story-wise) than current scenarios?

MC: SotS2 will include more canon based scenarios, linked and standalone, while also delivering background and story in terms of unlockable content for the onboard SotS-pedia. This means as you explore the game through playing, the game itself will reveal more about what you have encountered, weapons you have developed and technologies you have made so you can access all of that anytime in any future game. Not sure you will remember exactly how you took down the System Killer? Make your own annotation to the System Killer entry in the SotS-pedia so it’s there next time you have to fight it.

SC: Have randoms evolved? Will we see the upgraded versions of old randoms, too?

MC: As promised, the current randoms will evolve in response to events and conditions in the SotSverse and in the game mechanics of SotS2 itself. For instance, now you will be able to fight the System Killer over every planet in a star system before it turns its terrible attention on the central star. The old cast of SotS Prime will also be joined by an entire new set of randoms that will continue to introduce panic, fear and story elements into the SotSverse.

SC: Now, the systems and battles in them. Will tactical battles encompass whole systems or will they be focused on the part of the system? Will systems (or parts) in the tactical battle be in any way random or will they be completely pre-defined?

MC: Tactical battles will encompass entire star systems. Very small objects like asteroids will be randomly generated but if by pre-defined you mean planets and moons, those will be where you expect them to be based on your strat map data, then yes most system parts will be pre-defined.

SC: Will you be able to arrive with a fleet, set up camp and go for raiding missions across the system? How hard is it to find a fleet in a whole system?

MC: Achieving control over volumes of inner system space will certainly be a large part of one's ability to siege and control an enemy star system, so yes I suppose you could think of some actions as camping and raiding. Overall it may be fairly easy to figure out the general area an enemy has entered from, but that is far different than detecting and tracking every element of that enemy's fleet.

SC: SotS has no limits on ship section combinations. Will SotS2 have any limits, perhaps to simulate that some (command section, as a SotS Prime example) sections need sturdier chassis (mission section) to endure the turn momentum?

MC: There will be no strict section synergy rules, per se, but the addition of crew, power and supply factors for ships will make some section combinations more problematical than others.

SC: Will there be ships with more than three sections?

MC: Depends on your definition of "section" I suppose... since DNs and LVs will sport modules the size of old school DEs.

SC: Will ships in SotS2 be more durable? We tend to get attached to our ships but being ready to lose whole fleets is a necessity in SotS.

MC: SotS2 era ships will be more durable and die in more interesting ways when that durability is fatally exhausted.

SC: Will SotS2 feature ships-on-field limitation, like SotS Prime has command points?

MC: Since the fundamental difficulties of Commanding and Controlling ever larger numbers of units and formations has not changed in real life recently, I think it’s safe to say the SotS command point system will remain, in one form or another, an important tactical aspect of play and planning.

SC: Will per-poly targeting remain an option in the battles or are you aiming for a more "being a general" feeling, using more general fleet commands?

MC: Per poly targeting will remain a part of SotS combat, since you have ALWAYS been able to use "more general" commands in combat as well. Anyone demanding one over the other is in danger of deciding their style of play is somehow innately superior to someone else’s.

That being said, the new detection/evasion/targetlock systems will make hitting exactly what you want when you want somewhat problematical depending on your weapon and equipment choices while at the same time making general commands require a bit more feedback from the player when they are forced to decide how to face an enemy that is evading weapons lock.

SC: Leviathans...three times as large as Dreadnoughts. Will we be mindblown or what?!

MC: Minds will be blown, yes. Also possibly there may be an outbreak of pants-wetting.

SC: Autoresolving battles was always a bit of an issue in games. There was a mention this system could be revamped in SotS2. Would that mean that autoresolved battles will no longer be reduced to equations and will be auto-played out?

MC: We are investigating a system of non-displayed "real world" AR combat which, while it has far greater implementation risks than a strictly mathematical abstract model, it would be easier in the long run for a game with the extremely large and variable weapons and ship possibilities we have come to expect in a SotS game.

SC: What would you say is the part of the game that has changed the most since SotS Prime?

MC: The intelligence of the way the game interacts with the player. Aiding them but neither telling them what to do nor leaving them in the dark.

SC: Is there something you want to add and I have not had the wits to ask?

MC: You probably wanted to ask something about the extremely innovative system where the choices the player makes decide what governmental system they are using instead of just picking it from a list in the traditional 4X way. But I can see you were probably distracted by the need for an NStar question, so maybe next time.

SC: Argh!

And the trick question for the end; Is NorthStar still on course?

MC: NStar is in the negotiations phase and hence I really can't comment either way at the moment.

SC: Mr. Cirulis, thank you for your time and a lot of new info.

Some of the pants-wetting has almost begun, before Leviathans have arrived. Needless to say, the answers bring new questions and ponderings to mind. I’m sure the fans all over the internet will dig deep into these and StrategyCore will try its best to keep you up to date with more answers in the future as well.

Thank you all for reading, and if you enjoyed this interview then why not join in the discussion in our Sword of the Stars forum or check out our Sword of the Stars, Born of Blood and combined A Murder of Crows and Argos Naval Yard reviews?

 

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Space Voyager\
6 Nov 2010 - 11:58am
Space Voyager
A new hugely cool StoS2 pic surfaces!

Human_shot_04.jpg

The big one is most likely a Human CnC cruiser and there is a battlerider (meaning a manned surface-attached ship) on the left. I'm clueless on the middle one, except that it is not a battlerider and it is not a police-cutter, this much has been revealed in the Kerberos forums.

Judging from the small size and an individual FTL drive it could be some sort of scout or a spy.


Oh, BTW, it must have slipped past me the last time; the former post could well belong to Arinn Dembo, the mastermind behind the SotS universe! No, I have no confirmation from her but I know no other who would be this sure of him/herself when explaining the SotS cannon. And would take this much time to explain it! So thanks for the visit and the explanation!
Guest_Guest_*\
29 Sep 2010 - 12:31pm
Guest_Guest_*

Quote

Regarding self-destructing, the differences in a race's mindset apply here, too. Humans might not be eager to throw their lives away, but what about Tarkas? A "Daddy Croc" might fight till he's dead, or commits suicide Predator-style when he knows he's licked..., and wants to take everybody else with him! What is beginning to appear as the biggest weak-point of SotS is the fact that everybody is approaching the non-human races from a human mindset. Too bad.

The Tarka society is often, beyond even human standards, more pragmatic than anything.  Culturally it seems that humans have had a much greater tendency to "fight and die bravely on the line!" when the only gain was honor or pride, and not victory.  The Tarka have been characterized as significantly more pragmatic on a general scale than that, and do not go looking for death for glorious death's sake.  They have their own word for honor, "Habas", which scoffs quite harshly at ideas such as seppuku or kamikaze redemption.  I believe the quote from from Ms. Dembo, the lead lore developer, was something akin to this: A Tarka's reaction upon learning about the Human concept of bushido, "Var Stumpy takes himself MUCH too seriously!"  And in this way...they are an alien mindset.  I would most definitely not sell the game lore short on this.  Every ship you see is already echoing with a great amount of the race's unique or inhuman mindset from their angles, to turret size choices and placement, speed, generic armor values, arcs of fire etc., and that's just in the ships, not including the overall empire such as colony growth, tech priorities (and odds) as well as FTL mechanics.

You're right in your claim that an alien mindset could potentially justify self-destructs, I don't think this off base.  But all of the ones in SotS, don't, and I really do not think it is a terrible reach to understand why most, sentient, fully sapient and individualized lifeforms wouldn't regardless of if they grew up on Earth or are a sentient fungus in the middle of of a gas giant.  Life follows patterns for a reason, and a good part of the racial design in SotS has been creating truly alien societies that still make sense.  I mean, the Liir were created by a human being, have a logical thought process behind them, but even then, they're still drastically alien and often hard to understand.  As it is, they would have to go way out of there way to create a race that can justify this mechanism, and at that point the race would lose the wonderful organic feel they've put into each and every single one of them to date.  And the real reason you won't see them go out of their way for that is that it's just not a fun mechanic, and one that the lead developer has been very vocal in the past about his personal disdain for what including such features ends up doing to a fight.  There's no need to create a race that can justify something that isn't fun to do.
Space Voyager\
28 Sep 2010 - 7:02am
Space Voyager

Sons of Skaro, on 28th September 2010, 1:42am, said:

the differences in a race's mindset apply here, too.
You're right. More racial gameplay differences can only be good!
Guest_Sons of Skaro_*\
28 Sep 2010 - 12:42am
Guest_Sons of Skaro_*

Space Voyager, on 24th September 2010, 7:51am, said:

Nice ideas! I don't like the self-destruct in any form though, history isn't really full of actual suicides when you take Japan out of the picture.

Morrigi do have space habitats and I guess space breeding is already happening.

Mecron promised a surprise about the planetary invasions and I'm REALLY wondering what that is. Your wish may have already been planned for realization!

Refugees are already a random in SotS1! And they do ask for sanctuary! We were hinted we will get to know more about species not represented as playable in SotS 2.

I do wonder how much SotS1 you played, because meteor storms (showers) are pretty common. And you have a pretty impressive number of more or less natural disasters. You get slavers raiding your planets, space bees (The Swarm), Von Neumann menace, System killer, Puppet master and more and more... Seriously, it is never quiet if you as me. You can check some after-action reports in our SotS forum, we've had a lot of encounters. Puppet Master is in Hiver AAR for instance.

I love your race specific ship ideas though, such racial differences would make each race even more distinguishable.

Apparently, some of the files in my game install were corrupt as there were missing and broken objects and very few randoms appearing even in the difficult games. I re-installed my game, tweaked the settings and now get a 50% increase in randoms.

As for race specific ship ideas, and yes, a self-destruct option, please remember the mindset of the characters. Each race would possess unique priorities, beliefs, motives and taboos. It is only reasonable that ship design would reflect this.

Regarding self-destructing, the differences in a race's mindset apply here, too. Humans might not be eager to throw their lives away, but what about Tarkas? A "Daddy Croc" might fight till he's dead, or commits suicide Predator-style when he knows he's licked..., and wants to take everybody else with him! What is beginning to appear as the biggest weak-point of SotS is the fact that everybody is approaching the non-human races from a human mindset. Too bad.
Thorondor\
27 Sep 2010 - 3:13pm
Thorondor
What beautiful AARs this will produce!

::

:(
Space Voyager\
27 Sep 2010 - 10:08am
Space Voyager
Kerberos shows off their Mars2 graphics engine, meaning SotS2!

Sword of the Stars 2 engine demo from Kerberos Productions on Vimeo.



New ships, close detailed view, holotags.
Space Voyager\
24 Sep 2010 - 7:51am
Space Voyager
Nice ideas! I don't like the self-destruct in any form though, history isn't really full of actual suicides when you take Japan out of the picture.

Morrigi do have space habitats and I guess space breeding is already happening.

Mecron promised a surprise about the planetary invasions and I'm REALLY wondering what that is. Your wish may have already been planned for realization!

Refugees are already a random in SotS1! And they do ask for sanctuary! We were hinted we will get to know more about species not represented as playable in SotS 2.

I do wonder how much SotS1 you played, because meteor storms (showers) are pretty common. And you have a pretty impressive number of more or less natural disasters. You get slavers raiding your planets, space bees (The Swarm), Von Neumann menace, System killer, Puppet master and more and more... Seriously, it is never quiet if you as me. You can check some after-action reports in our SotS forum, we've had a lot of encounters. Puppet Master is in Hiver AAR for instance.

I love your race specific ship ideas though, such racial differences would make each race even more distinguishable.
Guest_Sons of Skaro_*\
24 Sep 2010 - 6:13am
Guest_Sons of Skaro_*
SotS2 sounds great, but is it awesome?

If I were the one designing SotS2, I'd include:

-Hiver Hatchery Ships:
When an ant nest is besieged or endangered, the first order of duty is to save the eggs. The Hiver may be an advanced alien species, but would they have similar instincts? I believe they would, and probably much more developed and intense.

-Morrigi Brood Ships:
Like Hiver Hatchery ships, but for off-world breeding.

-Suul'ka Cloning Ships (Mobile cloning facilities to mass-produce armies and slave labour):
Cloning has always held a place in science fiction: a dark and disturbing place where questions of ethics, slavery, corporate greed and out-of-control warfare assault our conscience. With so many questions and factors involving the Suul'ka, the temptation of bio-engineering/cloning facilities ought to be made available to all races, but making cloning available for the Suul'ka alone would suffice.

-Drop Ships:
Planetary bombardment may not be economically practical if you want to colonize that planet. Full-scale planetary invasion should be an option complete with Drop Ships to deploy troops and armor in an attempt to capture the planet and enslave it's population first.

-Random Natural Disasters:
I couldn't help but notice just how calm and peacefull it is in the SotS universe. No meteor storms. No planet-killing asteroids. No deadly comets. No rogue planets colliding with other planets. No stars going super-nova. No supermassive solar flares. No black-holes. No naturally occurring worm-holes. No Bermuda Triangle-like dead zones. No planetary disturbances like quakes, storms, pole-shifts, radical gravity fluctuations, ice-ages, famines, droughts, or extreme-volcanism. Call me a sucker for punishment, but that's exactly what I'd be bringing into the game to spice it up.

-Planetary Aid and Aid Ships:
Every disaster and war inevitably evokes the desire to send help. This is a useful tool in diplomacy and should be included in the game as it would have a direct influence on how the player is perceived by NPCs.

-Random Refugees:
If a species for example, like the Hiver are defeated in-game (which means that they no longer possess any world, but they have surviving ships [Hiver Hatchery Ships] or citizens on other worlds) there should be the issue of having ships full of Refugees flooding into systems looking for sanctuary. Accepting them creates a strain on resources and morale, but influences player perception by allowing the Hiver to bounce back into game-play but now as a permanent teamed-ally independantly producing their own ships in your systems to defend your planets. They essentially become a hassle-free bonus to your system defences that doesn't even require management on your part. Conversly, refusing Refugees kills the Refugees, hurts the over-all player perception of all NPCs, and makes surviving Hiver permanent enemies and raiders for the remainder of the game. This Random Refugee occurance would apply for all potentially defeatable/displaceable races: Refugee Humans/Tarkas/Liir/Moriggi/Hiver/Zuul.

-In-Combat Ship/Planetary Self-Destruct:
When facing certain defeat at the hands of a superior force, the self-destruct option should be made available to players. If you have plenty of planets, sacrificing a planet to destroy an entire enemy armada would be worth it. It also makes for a nice act of spite: "If I can't have this planet, nobody will!"

Okay, Mecron. I've said my peace. Now, show me some awesomeness!
Space Voyager\
10 Sep 2010 - 6:20am
Space Voyager

Azrael Strife, on 10th September 2010, 3:10am, said:

Alright, now I'm interested in SotS2 :(
HA, gotcha!  :(
Azrael Strife\
10 Sep 2010 - 3:10am
Azrael Strife
Alright, now I'm interested in SotS2 :(
Space Voyager\
9 Sep 2010 - 11:08am
Space Voyager
Thank you all for your work and additions, too!

@Sunflash: that "yes" made me laugh out loud, even though I'd love to know what it really refers to... Darn!
Thorondor\
9 Sep 2010 - 9:16am
Thorondor
Am I the only one to drool at the cool imagery here? >:]

::

Very nice interview, SV! :oh:
Pete\
8 Sep 2010 - 10:31pm
Pete
Good range if questions SV - some of them were a bit over my head having not really played the first one, but it sounds great and looks a lot nicer than the first one. I hope the interface receives a similar overhaul.

Nice try with the Northstar question by the way - at least we know it's still potentially on the cards.
Sunflash\
8 Sep 2010 - 10:09pm
Sunflash
Hahaha. Sounds cool. Like how SV got thrown for a loop or two there. Sneaky questions weren't sneaky enough! >:]
FullAuto\
8 Sep 2010 - 8:17pm
FullAuto
Watch his career go downhill because we've picked his brains apart.

 

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Game Card

Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter Box
Developer: Kerberos Productions
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Status:In Production

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Sword of the Stars Series