The story of one game or 4x strategy, which began 20 years ago and is still alive

In this article I want to talk about the game which was created in 1998 and after 16 years received its development, was published and successfully sold. It is noteworthy that the game was written by one person. It's about Remember Tomorrow (Polaris Sector).

Instead of the preface

I want to apologize right away, for perhaps a somewhat lengthy narrative, but I am not a professional writer and I hope dear readers will forgive me for some flaws.

Several times I tried to approach the writing of an article about this project, but each time I came across the fact that there was a lot of things connected with it and it was not so easy to tell all this.

Now, sitting in front of the screen, I want to tell right away about how cool the new chips are in the game, how the AI ​​was developed and how different races were going, how the game rules were created, and then some users did the impossible beyond the limitations. I want to tell a lot, but where to start?

Perhaps I'll start over.

A long time ago, in one very far ... well, you know

In my life, it so happened that I always liked the technique. Since childhood, I have been happy to disassemble receivers, delete MS DOS from disk E on a work computer and conduct other destructive-cognitive activities of a young future engineer. It is not surprising that when the era of computer games began, I began to give preference to strategies. At first it was the Master of Orion first, and then the second (of course, not only, but now it’s about them). The series of games was fantastic in every sense of the word, but somewhat oppressed by the “woodenness” and “monotony” of the fighting system.

So much effort was spent on the design of ships, but in fact it all came down to the banal "pi-piu."
This went on until one day I did not catch the eye of a review of the game in the “Navigator of the game world” (there was such a magazine :)). The game was called


I personally, with guts, bought the idea of ​​creating asymmetric ships with heavy weapons on one side and an empty other board.

Space battles were in real time!

And most importantly, the game was written by guys from Russia, and not a corporation with a huge staff of developers, but a team of several people.

The warmest lamp saytik of the project of '98 :)

I bought :) The

intro was great. If you look at the games of 1998 and the animation in them, then it's just super.

The toy itself turned out to be quite entertaining, but somewhat raw. It was possible to play, but it was clear that the interface could be polished.

The time has passed. The disc with the game was deposited in the collection, and the game remained forever in memory as one of the favorites.

16 years have passed ... 16 years, Karl!

During this time, three Diablo and two Starcraft have already been released.

And in the next break between load balancing on the backend and learning of the multilayer perceptron, I came across a well-known file-sharing site on the topic with the very project.

It turned out that the project not only did not die, but also grew to version 1.04.

It was a holiday.

I could not miss this opportunity, so I decided that I would help my favorite project as much as I could. As it turned out, gamedev thing is very difficult.

You may be surprised, but many modern games on the quality of statistics and on ergonomics plug industrial geo-information systems behind the belt. Surprisingly, but true.

So, directly about the creation of the game

The first thing, of course, was AI , because it’s not interesting to play with a stupid opponent, just like with the invincible.

As a description of the work of AI I will quote from the developer:
There are basically two AIs. One of them is “strategic” and the other “tactical”.
The strategic works on the global map - it develops an empire, designs its own ships, engages in diplomacy, builds and executes plans for invasions and covert operations. This is quite different at different levels of difficulty, so the AI ​​on “Hard” is really “smarter” than on “Normal”.

AI is multi-layered. This means that there is a global level that defines development goals, that is, performance levels that try to implement a strategy, then engineering levels that are responsible for specific things, like designing a ship, to counter known enemy designs. Each operation is the result of the joint efforts of several AIs.

For example, if a strategy is to develop a sector, it first checks to see if it can colonize something. If not, it checks if it is possible to conclude some kind of contract allowing colonization. If not, he begins to plan a hostile operation (different for different races, but in any case).

For this, he first launches spies in order to gain a better understanding of the enemy’s potential capabilities and to determine the best targets for an attack.

It then calculates the necessary attack power to execute the attack. This is done in accordance with the current military doctrine (that is, modified, by the way). He also calculates the necessary defense forces to sustain a lengthy conflict in case of failure. He then regulates the economy to secure this plan. Further, the AI ​​begins to produce and concentrate attack and defense forces - for the main and backup plan of attack. At the same time, it moves spies so that they are ready for sabotage operations in order to damage the economy of the enemy and limit its ability to strike back.
In parallel with this, AI is engaged in diplomacy in order to get allies and convince to attack this enemy.

And only after all the preparations are made, he starts the attack. But, as a rule, after a request to give him a star without a fight.

But I also intentionally made it so that these AI plans do not always succeed - such as modeling errors in planning, etc. In addition, the player’s efforts in misinformation play a significant role in AI planning and may destroy these plans.

AI can also learn from its mistakes. For example, an AI might remember that he underestimated the strength of a player in a certain system and adjusts accordingly.

As for the AI ​​cheats and what bonuses it has on “Hard”:

Firstly, this player has bonuses on “Normal” and extra bonuses on “Easy”

Secondly, yes, the AI ​​better transfers the lack of resources to “Hard” than the player. Thus, the AI ​​does not receive additional resources, but its fleet degrades more slowly than that of the player. This actually means that with a lack of resources, building new fleets is just as difficult for AI as it is for a player, but it is easier to maintain already built fleets. In addition, AI, as a rule, effectively trades and has very good mineral deposits.

In theory, everything was fine. Even in the software implementation at the alpha testing stage, a simulation was started without a player in which the AI ​​players fought quite well among themselves.

In practice, it turned out that there were people who quite calmly played at the most difficult level, besides, they still operated without problems with fleets of 100+ corvettes, light cruisers, etc. This led to the second problem:


Here it should be noted some features of the game:

Firstly - 9 different races that differ in game characteristics, the appearance of the inhabitants themselves, worldview and design of ships (both inside and outside).

For example, people had a very tight battleship, which forced the player to develop more advanced technologies for engines and generators, otherwise nothing fit inside.
In addition, a race appeared which did not consume food at all, but instead required production glasses. It doesn’t seem so scary, but at the beginning of the game in the face of a shortage of production capacity, such a feature added a headache to the player very much.

Secondly, asymmetric technology tree. In fact, there is no tree as such. There are four fundamental directions, studying them you get applied areas. Applied research gives you technology. The distribution of research points slider.
With this approach, a set of technologies could be completely unpredictable.

There were difficulties with technology. In the first versions of the research, it was possible to do so quickly that in a large empire, new technologies simply did not have time to be introduced and became obsolete. In this regard, it was necessary to postpone the research on the time throwing the necessary research points to more advanced technologies. As a result, it has been possible to increase the utility of less advanced technologies while maintaining the possibility of asymmetric development.

In the third - weapons.

The weapons in the game were placed only on certain slots, moreover, not immediately on the deck, but on a weapon fort, which was still to be investigated.

the narrowest human battleship The

only exception was the swarm rocket launchers. In addition, the weapons forts themselves were of several sizes, besides for fighters and heavy ships they were different.

It took quite a lot of time to properly balance all the weapons.
Let me explain: In the first versions, sometimes a situation was obtained when a bunch of fighters laden with missiles did not counter anything other than the same pile of fighters.

The difficulty here was that each weapon has many parameters for which adjustment is required.

For example, it was possible to balance the use of missiles by the fact that each ship has a finite number of them. There are storages of rockets, but those whose high reload rate consumes a lot of energy and there are few rockets in them. And the storage in which a lot of shells, much longer reload rocket launcher.

Fourth, living creatures. Pirates!
Historically, at the beginning of the game, pirates fly to us and ask our planet for a space dump. If we agree, then the game ends :)

At the beginning we have a small fleet and we are given the opportunity from the very first minutes to arrange a small scuffle with the pirates. Of course, they endure us and "nobly" leave us our planet.

There is another option when we endure the first wave of pirates. The second arrives, etc.
In general, up to a certain point, it was believed that the pirates could not be defeated. Exactly until one of the players proved otherwise .


Here I had to work in two directions at once:

Create animated portraits of the races and create models of ships (I personally liked the warm lamp portraits from the first version, but decided otherwise).

Ship models suddenly turned out a lot. 9 races * at least 5 types of heavy ships, 5 types of fighter jets and 2 types of space stations. This is not counting the pirates and ships of the "ancient".


How much it cost, I don’t even want to imagine.

The graphics engine worked on raster (sprite) graphics. Of course, if I do not confuse anything. This allowed to keep the system requirements rather modest.

Marketing and other financial pits

As practice has shown, the success of the game is not only a good idea and an excellent implementation. Much of the success of a good marketing campaign.

Here it turned out to be a complete failure: (To

publish the game was taken by Slitherine.

To begin with, the name of the game was changed to Polaris Sector. The step is clear, it provided the uniqueness of the name and allowed us to uniquely find the game by this name. Good, useful.

Then ... As I understood Nobody bothered with the campaign. Surprisingly, sales went anyway. Shako-shaky, but nonetheless.

What no one expected was the user feedback that the game was too complicated :) Initially, the publisher asked everything to simplify and remove the possibility of a space battle completely 0_0

It was a failure. The project that was actually written by one person who reached the state of the finished product simply “did not shoot”.

Looking back, it can be said that the main problem of all products targeted at smart people is a very small percentage of the latter.

Honey spoon

However, there is good news.

After the official release of the Polaris Sector, one of the fans picked up and gash free STAR WARS mod . With all the "whistles" in the form of X-wing-s, death stars and destroyers.
There is also a system of "heroes", for example, Darth Vader increases production points by 40 points (as far as I remember, maybe less). Each character gives some kind of bonus.


Personally, I really liked it.

Friends, seeing your enthusiasm decided to add another small piece with a description of what has changed inside.

Added Lumens (these are the ones that use hammers instead of food) and "ancient."
Spoiler of the ancients
Такие друзья типа гостей с Антареса. Очень неприятные ребята если не подготовиться к их появлению.

Slightly changed the internal design of the old ships, the graphics changed completely.
Appeared transport workers. In fact, ships with a large amount of space inside, without the possibility of booking and without significant weapons systems. Purely symbolic several small pylons.
There are cosmic anomalies that give resources and containers with bonus ships.
About containers
При шустром исследовании галлактики можно на ранних этапах собрать два корабля древних, которые очень даже «злые».

Now it is possible to disassemble the fleet into containers and transport them where necessary in transport workers. Applies to any ships including combat stations.

If I do not confuse anything, then now the resources on the planets are slowly depleting. On the other hand, after the discovery of certain technologies on the planets, you can find new resources.
Planets can now be destroyed.

Ground battles
Now you can not fly, throw troops and capture the planet. You will have to fight for it, and the time it takes will be inversely proportional to the number of your troops.

Now you can create invisible ships that can, with a certain degree of probability, fly across enemy territory without being noticed. It all depends on the number of modules and detection systems.
The cool thing “to fill up on the sly” allows you to fly somewhere and on-site to drain fuel from enemies. It does not always work.

Modules added decently. Generators, fuel tanks, various means of air defense, storages of rockets about which I wrote above and a lot more.
Separately, I would like to mention the module autonomous refueling. It allows you to restore fuel at any point on the map, of course it happens very slowly, but by combining such a module with invisibility, you can get quite a good research ship.
A module for creating a subspace tunnel has appeared. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of “border barricading” and motivates the creation and distribution of a mobile fleet. Old

were redesigned and partly changed names.
Added a lot of new interesting pieces. For example, laser missiles (Hi Honor Harrington), a great thing against fighters.
There are additions in heavy artillery, but now only the Muon Cannon comes to mind.

Increased resistance to standard AI tactics . Now make a fast long-range frigate and crush all into the cabbage will not work.

This is for me a dark forest. I can say that in comparison with what was - it became better.
In general, you can be friends, drive back and forth resources if necessary. Make alliances.
If the right approach can even unite with someone, but personally I have never succeeded.

Space battle
The most interesting (for me) left in the end. The fights have become more dynamic and more beautiful.
A correctly tactically calculated battle can really make a big difference with the usual "send the crowd."
For example, there are situations when in a battle it is better to hide behind a thick cruiser with powerful airborne air defenses and shields, collect the first volley of fighters at it and then send your own into battle. Otherwise, the enemy will first “fire” your fighters with missiles, fly off to recharge and return, and decide the cruiser.

Fleet Editor
Now you can make fleet design: select ships and their purpose (for example: aircraft carrier, attack, air defense, etc.) to build them in the order we need and send it all to construction. The fleet is built automatically and assembled in the right place.

The interface has become very pleasant. Of course, everyone has different tastes, but he leaves me with a feeling of comfort, a pleasant soft chair and a cup of aromatic coffee. :)
drag and drop here works somehow well, clearly, exactly as needed. I don’t know how to explain, but now if he worked everywhere, it would be great :)

As I understand it, the game is pretty easy to modify . You can customize almost anything. All this is done through text files and utility. I can’t tell you more, because he did not climb.

This is all that has now come to mind.

Also popular now: