Zero Sum Games' successfully-Kickstarted 4X strategy title set in space, StarDrive, will officially release for Windows PC on April 26, the developer told Polygon.
StarDrive was successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2011, and all project backers — as well as those who have since pre-ordered the game through Zero Sum Games' website — have been receiving new builds of StarDrive as developer Daniel DiCicco releases them. The game will officially ship on April 26, but DiCicco will continue to work on it. Everyone who buys the game will receive updates as they roll out.
Speaking to Polygon recently, DiCicco said before he started working on StarDrive, he couldn't imagine a career for himself in game development. Having graduated with a degree in computer science eight years ago when being an indie developer didn't seem like a viable career, DiCocco became a trial lawyer where he specialized in criminal defense and family law. It wasn't until two years ago that he began considering making games.
"He quit his job. He devoted the next 15 months to making StarDrive."
"I had a great time as a lawyer, but after a while it really started to eat at me and I missed working with computers," he said. "So I started working on StarDrive in my spare time, just as a hobby after work. In 2011, I decided to see what I could do on Kickstarter."
DiCicco asked for $7,500 — modest by most video game Kickstarter standards — and successfully raised more than $17,000. Iceberg Interactive showed interest in publishing his game. Within the space of a month, StarDrive had an audience that was interested in what DiCicco was doing, publishers were offering to work with him and a career as a developer finally seemed viable. He quit his job. He devoted the next 15 months to making StarDrive.
SPACE BEARS AND BEYOND
"I was playing a lot of space games and I realized none of them have what I wanted." DiCicco told Polygon. "I'd look at some games and think, it needs this feature, and it should have that feature, so I thought, 'You know what? I could do that. I could do it. I just have to actually do it.'"
As a one-man studio, DiCicco set out to do it.
StarDrive includes game mechanics and features he's always wanted to see in space games. On a high level, it's a game about space exploration. The player is trying to explore and colonize as many planets and galaxies as they can; dominating and spreading their existence through the universe. Competing for domination are seven alien races, some of whom are amicable, while others are hostile. There's a strategic layer in how players handle their opponents. They can opt for the diplomacy route, negotiate with other races and form a federation, or declare war and hope for a military victory. Within the combat system is another layer of strategy, where players can build and customize their own ships in a building minigame. The game lets players tinker with everything, from where ship engines are placed to where every individual piece of armor is built. Players can zoom effortlessly in and out between their individual ships to a wide view of the solar system they're trying to conquer.
The game is littered with strategic decisions. The world moves in real-time, combat happens in real time, but beneath the action is a turn-based system that determines when resources are harvested, when production is applied to construction queues and when research occurs. According to DiCicco, players will have to carefully consider what they're going to build and where, when they will send out their fleets, and how they're going to manage their relationships with the other races.
"I drew inspiration from John Scalzi's Old Man's War," he said. "The premise is humanity can enter the stars, but the galaxy is huge and there are races out there, and we'd be a little pea that can get crushed really easily. So we'd need to expand aggressively and violently to even have a chance at survival. That's kind of what StarDrive is about."
DiCicco likens the game to Sid Meier's Civilization set in space — it's a race to dominate, and players have to consider their combat, expansion and technology advancement strategies, as well as how they deal with alien races such as space bears.