Many of you have been with us for a long, long time. We have been doing “early access” since 1993 when we put out the pre-pre-alpha of Galactic Civilizations for OS/2. Back then, it was a radical idea to put something out for player feedback that was unfinished.
These days, games are frequently put out in “early access,” but they are typically very late betas or even demos, where it is far far too late for players to have any meaningful impact on the game’s direction. That isn’t the case here.
Here, we want to put something out early enough where we can make pretty dramatic changes based on player ideas and feedback. This also means we will be trying out some things that just won’t work.
We need your help communicating to others that what is in a given build may not be in the final release. We need to be able to try out ideas that may end up not working without fear that people are going to misrepresent the entire game based on this.
In this article, I'm going to give a few minor examples of things that we want to try, but may or may not work out.
For starters, we need to set some expectations for the Technology Preview series of builds we’ll be releasing this Fall (2022) and Winter (2023).
This is a new game engine
You guys probably already know this, but most people don’t: there are very, very few new video game engines being made today. Almost all games now use either Unreal or Unity. Neither of those engines would work well for this particular game. Sins of a Solar Empire II is built on a new engine. It’s a rewrite.
Because there are so few new game engines, the GPU makers (NVIDIA, AMD, Intel for instance) tend to focus their optimizations and compatibility efforts on the major engines. This means a new engine is likely to have problems that we won’t know about until it’s been out there for a while.
The first public builds of this game will be trying to answer a simple question: does it work? We don’t mean, "is it fun?" We mean, "will it load up on your PC? Do you end up with a bunch of purple graphic artifacts? Does it just randomly crash? Does it make your PC get too hot?"
So if you’re joining the Technical Preview hoping to get a “fun game” to play, we highly recommend you not do that. Go get Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion and play that. It’s going to be a while before this is anything close to a “good game."
We have some new UI ideas
In the original Sins of a Solar Empire, there were no “space buildings”. There were no asteroids to mine. Until late beta, when we did add asteroid mining, they eventually ran out.
The first public alpha didn’t even have phase lanes! Yea, imagine Sins where you could travel anywhere. It was whack-a-mole. Back then, there were no Streamers, YouTubers, Twitter, etc. to spread the word that our game wasn’t fun. Because of this, we were able to try out different ideas with our community until we hit on the ones that worked.
We are trying out new ideas with the technical preview - not just in terms of UI design, but also the UI visuals. Everything is on the table. Skeuomorphic UI? Monochromatic? Fly out menus? Docking based UI? We’re going to be trying a lot of things, and while almost none of these ideas will work, we need to try them to get to the ideas that do.
The first goal of Sins of a Solar Empire II is to catch up to where Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion was. We want to get to that point and then grow beyond that. This is a new, core-neutral, game engine that can handle thousands of entities simultaneously.
If you have a question regarding gameplay, our answer will probably be: “We don’t know yet.” We’re not in a hurry. It’s been 15 years since the release of Sins of a Solar Empire, and Sins of a Solar Empire II will become the basis for many years of expansions, improvements, new ideas, etc.
We are trying out different art styles. We have already tried several even before announcing the game. We want to try out more, but that only becomes possible if we are allowed to fail gracefully. That means when we release a build that uses Pink Space Pony anime ships and it turns out that was a bad idea, you guys communicate that to us, but at the same time not just assume that Sins of a Solar Empire II is going to be a doomed pink unicorn game.
Let us try things out. Let us make mistakes. Let us work together together to make the best game we can.
We are really excited to share our ideas with you, but we are also more than a little bit nervous. We know that Sins of a Solar Empire became such a classic because we were allowed by the community to try out a lot of ideas that turned out to be terrible and then fix them.
Sins of a Solar Empire was made during a time when we could attempt new things that didn't work using a public early access program and know that we could then try something else without there being a “social media narrative” because those things didn’t exist back then.
It is unavoidable that we will have some early access participants who will play a build and see bad UI, gameplay, graphics, or something else and be on the Internet in moments to spread the word that, "this is a disaster - and don’t forget to like and subscribe!”
This is the world we live in today. What we are hoping is that enough of you remember the process that made Sins of a Solar Empire a classic, and help communicate that this isn’t a demo. It’s not a late beta. This is a collaborative effort with the space strategy game community to make something truly special.