Playing games in alpha, the true final frontier

To alpha and beyond: Hades’ Star

“Captain Drigo, sir, system VXG-0199 is now in view of our long-range sensors.”

Drigo turned from yet another review of the ship’s inventory projections to face the helmsman. “Visuals if you please, Mr. Gupta.”

A three-dimensional image of a star appeared before Drigo. It was a type-G, a yellow dwarf, as promised. Drigo let out an inaudible sigh of relief. That was one anxiety laid to rest.

“There she is, sir. A beauty, is she not?”

Drigo glanced at Commander Shin, his executive officer. It was well hidden, but the relief was plain on her voice too. The whole crew was nervous, Drigo knew, everything had hinged on this.

“Aye, XO, she is indeed. Nice and habitable, as promised. Looks like we have a new home.” A good captain sought to reassure his crew.

Old Man Vigabool had paid a small fortune for the rights to colonize this system and was happy for the opportunity, Drigon knew. The Hades rush was underway as soon as the initial scouting vessels confirmed what humanity’s mega-corporations had long dreamed—the Hades Galaxy was ripe with star systems to colonize and exploit. Millions of stars were said to have planets fit to terraform and asteroids to mine and those with the wherewithal to do so began snapping up rights to systems by the tens, hundreds, or even thousands. Thousands of expeditions were launched in record time.

It’s not much, but it’s home.

Vigabool had been more conservative in his approach. He hired a data-mining team to find one solar system, the right system, to purchase. This was still a gamble, of course. Drigo had been monitoring the reports coming back from Hades. Many stars had simply not lived up to what had been promised. Many were actually unstable red-dwarf systems, quite dangerous to be close to, let alone colonize. If VXG-0199 had been one of those systems the entire journey and millions of credits would have been wasted, not to mention the risk to the lives of all those under Drigo’s command.

Mr. Gupta, any sign of company in the system,” Commander Shin inquired.

Drigo’s attention snapped back to the task at hand. There wasn’t time to relax yet. For every report of a bogus yellow star there had been three of armed squatters lying in wait as the system’s rightful owners arrived. There were also the more troubling reports from the scouts to consider, the rumors that kept Drigo up at night.

“Scan all visible sectors on full power,” Drigo added to Shin’s order.

I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Captain!

Several of the scout ships had reported sighting technologically advanced ships not of human design. Those reports were readily dismissed back home as outliers. An intergalactic gold rush could not be held back by much of anything, there was too much money to be made, and Hades Galaxy had been cleared for colonization.

“No sign of company, Captain,” Guta announced moments later.

“Very well, Mr. Gupta, take us in. We will set up short-range scanners once we’re established our initial bases. I want to take a very thorough look as soon as we are able.”

This would not be easy, Drigo knew, but he hadn’t signed up for easy. It would be an adventure, and he was ready for it.

“Welcome home, people.”

=====

Hades’ Star is a space-based MMO where you take command of a new colony in the Hades Galaxy. The game is currently in alpha testing and already hits a lot of my 4x buttons. You start out with a small presence around a stable yellow star—your home system and (relatively) safe zone—and begin your inexorable march outward. You will colonize and improve planets, ship raw materials between planets and moons to earn credits, and mine fuel from nearby asteroids to run your burgeoning colony. You’ll look to grow your economy into a galactic powerhouse, build a formidable fleet of transports, mining vessels, and battleships, and take on the indigenous Cerberus—who won’t cede their territory willingly.

The action of Hades’ Star comes in the form of battles with the Cerberus forces within your own system, as well as high tension trips to red stars within the galaxy. Red stars offer a lot to lure adventurous colonists—there are asteroids to mine, for one, but more intriguing are the alien artifacts that lie upon the planets within these systems. These artifacts, once unearthed and researched, provide blueprints for technological upgrades for your fleet of spacecraft. With reward comes risk, however, and red stars are only stable for ten minutes and then boom: they go nova along with anyone and anything unlucky enough to be nearby.

This would be the “boom” he was speaking of.

That’s where things stand in the alpha, and aside from the expected balancing issues and bugs the game is very good and offers a fun gameplay now and a great deal of promise for the future. Most of this promise is derived from something there isn’t a lot of yet: diplomacy and social interactions. The idea of a mobile MMO is a powerful one, and the potential is high here for something really great. At present you can band together with other players to form corporations. These corporations don’t do much more than provide a venue to chat in the alpha, but in the future it will be a way to pool resources and collaborate on challenges. The possibility of things like espionage (and counter espionage), bidding on contracts, waging trade wars, and initiating hostile takeovers are quite appealing. The stage is set for collaboration and competition to occur in something other than blasting your opponents to bits in open conflict.

I want to state very clearly that all of the above are my hopes for the game, not planned features. The developers have a long list of ideas and have gathered a great many more from players in the alpha. They intend to evaluate what works and what doesn’t and start trying things as the game moves forward. Hades’ Star will be a living, breathing game that evolves as the developers see what works and what doesn’t and how the player population grows and reacts. They are very hesitant to even enumerate some of these ideas—such things tend to be spun and remembered as promises down the road—but assured me that diplomacy and social interactions are integral to the game and one the game’s three design pillars. Their goal is to create a galaxy full of political intrigue, alliances (both real and of convenience), rivalries, and even betrayals.

Hades’ Star is finishing up alpha testing in early January. The open beta will start a few weeks later and will also serve as the game’s soft-launch. Hades’ Star will be a free-to-play title with no restrictions on progress or annoying energy bars that limit how much you can play. In-app-purchases will buy crystals which can be converted into credits and used to generally speed up your progression in the game. Based on my experiences in the alpha I can vouch for it being possible to make good progress and have a lot of fun without paying a cent. The developers have also been very clear to me that a goal of theirs is to make the game fun for free-to-players and recognize the importance of them for the game’s future. I for one will be happy to spend some money on such a fun game and invest in the promise of what’s to come. I can’t wait to go forth and colonize. I hope to see you in the Hades Galaxy.

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Notable Replies

  1. js619 says:

    It asks you to use credits to speed things up during the tutorial, but seems to give you enough credits to pay for what it wants.

  2. Apex says:

    That's three. Not a huge start, but a start. I will see what I can set up tomorrow as I'm just shy of 10k. Post or message me with your game tag, and I will send the invite.

    I was thinking of not tying the name directly to Stately Play website so we can recruit from outside. How to you feel about "Dignitias" as an homage to Stately Play's dignified pace, and the fact that corporation are measured on influence?

    I can also attest to the fact that the shipping gamely gets more fun with a transport ships at lvl 2 and the shipping computer. With the computer, you get an 8% bonus if it picks up a shipment in-transit, so it's like a puzzle to figure out fuel efficient routes to maximize your credits.

  3. js619 says:

    JS619 in game... catchy, I know. And I absolutely agree about the level 2 transports with the computer - I definitely waste hydrogen sometimes, but I'm never really at a loss for hydro, so...

    I also completed a diplomacy station last night, so I'm available for diplomacy. Diplomatic diplomacy, no less.

    And I don't mind the name at all, although @Snotty128 raises a decent point.

    http://www.dignitas.ch/?lang=en

  4. I guess we are just going to have to get him to become Stately Play reader... :slight_smile:

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