E3 2012: We chat with Stardock and Ironclad about Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion

Editor's Note: Please read this post on Stardock's relationship to Neowin

First released in 2008, Sins of a Solar Empire became a surprise critical and sales hit for new game developer Ironclad Games and publisher Stardock. After two expansion packs, Ironclad and Stardock will soon release the next stand alone game in the series, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. The game adds new features and ships, including the massive Titans vessels, along with offering improved graphics.

We got Stardock producer Chris Bray and Ironclad co-founder Blair Fraser to answer our questions of Sin of a Solar Empire: Rebellion which is due for release next week on June 12th.

First, the original Sins of a Solar Empire was a big sleeper hit. Can you give us an update on the sales of that game?

Chris Bray: At this point, the original Sins and it's 2 previous expansions have sold over 2 million units.   Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity, which is a collection of the original game and the expansions continues to sell very well.  Rebellion is going to include all of the content of the previous versions in addition to everything it's adding.

How did the idea for Rebellion come about?

Blair Fraser: Ironclad and Stardock are always collecting a ton of ideas for new Sins content and mechanics. The trick is always finding a cohesive package to organize it within. We knew the next expansion was certainly going to be more militaristic than the previous expansion (Diplomacy) and we knew we wanted more faction differentiation, so these became the seeds of brainstorms on the organization that ultimately became Rebellion. Its interesting that once we had the organization, it caused various ideas to be tossed out, reshaped and refined based on this theme. The back and forth process of this always fascinates me.

How do adding Loyal and Rebellious factions for each race make the gameplay different for Rebellion?

Chris Bray: The factions have opened up a ton of new strategic possibilities.  Not only by allowing players to really match their preferred playstyle (aggressive, turtling, cooperative), but also introducing some all new approaches.  The most unique is definitely the Vasari Loyalists faction's ability to operate as a massive nomadic fleet, turning planets to rubble to fuel their economy.  It's a very high risk, high reward strategic approach.

The game will feature the massive Titans ships. Why did Ironclad want to bring these kinds of ships into the game's universe?

Blair Fraser: I think Brad and Brian (Stardock) had been pushing for Titans since before the original Sins came out. At that time we (Ironclad) decided we didn't want to take away from the glory of the capital ships so elements of the original Titan design were refactored into the super weapons (Novalith etc). Titans came up again during Entrenchment and Diplomacy but they never made thematic sense so it wasn't until Rebellion that we were able to resurrect them in a proper way.

What other ships will be added to Rebellion?

Chris Bray: New capital ships and corvette-class fast attack craft have been added, which open up new strategies and counters.  We've also added new levels to capital ship abilities.  This allow players to put more thought into customizing a capital ship to fit a specific role in their fleet, instead of mindlessly maxing everything out.

What sort of refinements have been made to the gameplay?

Chris Bray: The new ships and faction abilities have definitely added a lot, but we've also gone back and balanced some of the units that played too dominant a role in the mix of Sins strategies (specifically TEC long-range frigates and masses of bomber strike craft).  Some of this balance was achieved specifically by adding in the new units as counters.

What can you tell us about the game's multiplayer modes and features?

Chris Bray: We've made Rebellion much easier to play with friends by taking advantage of Steam features such as in-game friends lists and game invites.  We've also introduced new victory conditions that allow for a variety of objectives in both single and multiplayer.  Players can fight to eliminate each others capital planet or flagship.  They can win by research, diplomacy, or by occupying a planet in a king-of-the-hill style variation.  Keeping with Sins of a Solar Empire's focus on sandbox-play and customization, all of these modes can be played simultaneously or in various combinations.

What sort of graphics upgrades have been made for Rebellion?

Chris Bray: The lighting engine has gotten a total overhaul and the effect is amazing.  Seeing the shadow of a titan slowly cast over a fleet of capital ships really brings the scale of the game to life in a new way.  Particle effects have gotten a significant upgrade as well, even the little touches like adding solar flares exploding off the surfaces of stars.

Will the game support mods like the original?

Chris Bray: Definitely!  Mod support is important to us and ranges from a simple to use map editor, to full conversion mods.  We've also expanded the functionality of the Galaxy Forge tool (our advance map editor) in Rebellion.  The modding community for Sins is huge, and they've created some unbelievable total conversions in the past.  There's already several in the works for Rebellion that look amazing.

Any plans for a free demo to be released for Rebellion?

Chris Bray: Yes, we plan to make a demo shortly after release.

If Rebellion does well, will we see more Sins of a Solar Empire games in the future?

Chris Bray: Who knows, the Vasari are still on the run from something...

Finally, is there anything you wish to say about the game?

Chris Bray: Just want to say thanks to the fans for all their support and feedback during the beta, and we're looking forward to the June 12th release!

NeoGamr and Neowin's coverage of E3 2012 is sponsored by War Inc. Battle Zone.

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