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. So, how does pvp work? Is this the sort of game where people can attack you and wreck all your stuff? Or more like gems of war, e.g., where you have a defense team, but nothing bad happens if you lose?

  2. As far as I can tell there’s no PVP, players work together in instances to get artifacts from planets and destroy this other AI force before the stars go supernova.

  3. js619 says:

    Reviving this topic with the release of the full version yesterday… I’m enjoying what I’ve played so far, but one of my first impressions is that the F2P monetezation / timer nonsense is strong with this dev.

  4. Yup. I’m still working my way back up to the scale I achieved in the alpha. I still rarely jump to the red stars, but they’ve made it significantly less painful to lose your entire battleship fleet to cerberus units.

  5. Ive been poking around a bit with this to see whats on offer (mostly empty sectors it seems) and Im still on the fence about whether Im wasting my time or not. The gameplay loop so far seems to be to plunder a red star, which is not exactly difficult, then let your research station unlock the goodies over 8 hours. I admit Im only on the 2nd red star so maybe the game opens uo a bit later. I also admit I do keep coming back to push my transport ships around my planets - even if I only get chump change for doing so.

  6. js619 says:

    Exactly where I stand as well. Hoping it opens up at some point - only having five ships right now is somewhat limiting…

  7. js619 says:

    I know nothing of the corporations - guessing it’s an alliance of sorts? Do we want to form StatelyPlay, Inc.?

  8. so far I log in, it has me build something, it asks me to use currency to speed it up, I think “to save a minute? heck no” and then I get bored in 10 seconds and close the app. I remember to come back an hour or two later and do the next tutorial task.

  9. 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.

  10. no, you can’t make me! I won’t! ha!

  11. Apex says:

    It seems like several other people share similar thoughts on this game. I picked it up based on coverage from here and PT, but I’m not sure it delivers on the promise of a 4X MMO. I seem to be spending a lot of time waiting for my transports to make deliveries between planets.

    That said, I’m nearing on the 10k credits needed to create an alliance (or corporation), so if there’s interest in a Stately Play one, I will happily make it.

  12. js619 says:

    It’s strange… I can fully see the f2p mechanics, and the gameplay has yet to really reveal itself, but I find myself drawn to my little space transports, moving goods between the (beautifully rendered) planets and systems… I threw the devs the 4.99 permanent upgrade to ship production or whatever, but haven’t felt compelled to spend anything more. It’s satisfying enough to log in for ten minutes at a pop, do some shipping, and upgrade something or mine an artifact and have something to do when I login again four hours later.

    (Mind you, part of me is screaming about the above and f2p being the bane of the App Store).

  13. Apex says:

    I have softened my personal dislike of F2P a bit this year, mostly due to some really generous examples like Rogue Wizards, Fire Emblem: Heroes, and Eternal Card Game. I still dislike the fact that most mobile (and even many desktop) MMOs have gone the F2P route with pay-to-win mechanics.

    Hades’ Star is a weird hybrid. The dev states on the website that they don’t want to create a game that needs to become and all-consuming obsession to get ahead. One where you can check-in, do some stuff, and leave for a few hours. They seem to have succeeded at that. Unfortunately, they made some design decisions that hurt the core gameplay.

    I keep seeing in the global chat that the game gets much more interesting at higher levels. Seeing some of the upgrade modules higher-level player have, I can believe this (teleports, delay nova, EMP, oh my!). The problem is that the two early game loops are boring. You have the shuttle ships around for credits loop (mentioned above), and you have the red star mission loop. At red-star level one, its drive your battle ship at the Cerberus ship, maybe activate a shield, and grab as many artifacts as you can. There’s no tactical choices. These get better as the enemy ships become more varied at higher levels, and you unlock more ship modules, but there’s not a lot to recommend to someone starting out other than, “It gets more fun. Trust me.”

    Offer still remains for a Stately Play corporation so the fine folks here can cooperate on red star missions (I hear this is another necessary, interesting facet of gameplay at higher levels). My economic engine is decent so I can afford it, but I would like to gauge interest before spending 10k credits.

  14. I’d likewise be up for it. Though the main benefit of corps comes into play once you can afford system to system trading, or are able to be online at the same time to help out in red star excursions.

  15. 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.

  16. Dignitas is the name of a swiss euthanasia/assisted suicide group. I’d still join, but thats the first thing the name brings to mind for me

  17. halfvoid in game.

  18. 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

  19. JMH.75 in game. Coming 2 weeks I’m on holidays at a place where wifi is almost non-existent, so don’t expect to much from me :slight_smile:

  20. Apex says:

    Definitely not an association I was going for. So, I created “Stately Star.” Close, but different enough to keep it unofficial.

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to send invites in the corporation window like most games of this genre. I left it as an open corporation, so you should be able to find it under the chat window (pull up from the bottom) > Corporation tab > Recommended. Let me know if any of you run into problems.

  21. Me Giant. Me joined Stately Star.

    I didn’t mind Dignitas, it is a Latin approximation of Stately and I figured the Swiss euthanasia could be a metaphor for all the dying red stars.

    So, how do we collaborate and cooperate as a corporate? And what does a diplomacy station do? That’s probably the next major purchase I can make in a day or two…

  22. Apex says:

    I had to make it request to join. We had 12 join that weren’t from the forum, which isn’t fair to you here. I will buy a diplomacy station to see it that allows me to send a link for you to request to join.

    For how we can cooperate, the first way it to do “private” red star scans, which will be open to fellow members of the corporation. That way you don’t have to rush to load orbs like some of the public missions.

    Further options open up with diplomacy stations and trade stations, though I haven’t made it that far.

  23. yeah, you got a lot of new corporate interns :). (Acquisitions Incorporated reference)

  24. js619 says:

    Not showing up for me… I have six other corps but not Stately… and from the chat window, there’s no way to search for a specific corp as of now. Might have to set up a time to be on at the same time as someone to grab their profile and see the corporation.

  25. js619 says:

    Happened to find @Snotty128 in chat and sent a request. Also requested diplomacy with Snotty but it said his centers are full?

  26. Ive dont have any diplomacy centres yet, so I guess they are ‘full’ in a manner of speaking

  27. Not being able to search through corps is a killer for trying to join up with your friends. I’ve only got 4 corps in my recommended and none of them are Stately Star. Can’t see Stately start in the corp leaderboard since it only goes through the top 100, same with players. :frowning:

  28. js619 says:

    @halfvoid let me know when you’ll be on and I’ll look for you in global chat…

  29. Managed to get in. Cheers guys!

  30. Zombie Gunship Survival has shown that I have room for one F2P grind fest in my life, so I’ve downloaded HS too.

    Ok, I think I’ve got the broad hang of things, and raided red stars enough that I have a moon filled with the artefact backlog. Is there any point in researching all of them (blue crystals and orbs) or should I just trash a couple for cash and hydrogen?

    I’ve built a second battleship by accident - hey ho - and resisted the urge to shoot up someone else’s transport at a red star. Is there any way to repair a damaged ship, or are they basically disposable?

    How much of the shipment-hauling busywork do you do? Is there any way to automate this? The little hydrogen miner guys are perfect, just getting on with the job without fuss.

    I’ll try to join the corp as well when people are around. So far so pretty anyway.

  31. I research everything. You get much more resources from finishing the research than scrapping them, just takes time.

    You can’t actually shoot other players ships, HS is entirely cooperative, even when running stars with players not in your corporation. Move any damaged ships to a planet you’ve colonized and it’ll repair over time.

    So far I haven’t found a way to automate shipments, but maybe someone who’s progressed further could comment if I’m wrong. The hydrogen miners can queue up more asteroids to automatically harvest as you level them up though.

    Stately Star should end up in the top 100 corps soon, I think we’re only a hundred or so influence points away now. I’ll drop a message in the general chat so you can click on me and request to join.

  32. js619 says:

    Welcome aboard!

    I’ve personally never trashed the artifacts- you never know what blueprints you’ll find, and the credit and hydrogen rewards are better when you research them. Depends how large your backlog is, though. Careful storing them on a planet / moon - I discovered that it keeps everything in that system from producing shipments, not just the planet they’re actually on.

    No way to PVP, so that other ship was safe! Dock a damaged ship at a planet and it will slowly repair.

    At some point the transports will have shipment computers, which will allow them to automatically pick up shipments, but it’s not automated per se.

  33. Yeah, if you’re storing artifacts, store them on a planet with no orbiting moons / planets, as it’ll keep that entire set from generating new shipments.

  34. @halfvoid, @js619 Excellent, thanks guys. :slight_smile:

    Picked up your message, @halfvoid, and asked to join the corp.

    Oh, shame about the no-fighting thing. I was being all careful about protecting my transports when there was another player around, and I thought I was able to target another transport with my battleship. So the battleship is only for shooting the local Cerberus contingent? Fair enough.

    Damn, all my planets have at least a moon. I’ll go and pick the least productive. Ooh, new sector notification! Yes, it’s only been 3 days so this is still exciting… :wink:

    EDIT: ok so it was a rubbish sector with a bunch of asteroids and a Cerberus thing that destroyed my battleship because I sent in the one without the guns upgrade and running away is apparently quite tricky. Hello to everyone in Stately Star corp land :hugging:

  35. I think we are up to 98th last I checked.

    @SpiceTheCat I don’t know if shipments can be entirely automated in future, but there is an early upgrade called shipments computer which will make your transports pick up any cargo on the way to planets/moons on your course and even give a bonus. So semi-automated with that.

  36. js619 says:

    Oops, meant to make MorfPT a senior member, being as he’s holding the number 1 spot, but hit it twice accidentally. Not sure how to drop him a level? Or if we care?

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

  38. Apex says:

    I’ll treat that with “what’s done is done.” I wouldn’t want to insult him with a demotion, and he is helpful in the red star missions.

  39. Apex says:

    Once you can upgrade to a level 2 red star scanner and get some upgrades on your transports and battleships, it can be useful to salvage the lvl 1 artifacts. A lvl 2+ artifact produces more credits when researched and still provides blueprints for the earlier unlocked modules.

    As you start to level up your ships and upgrade modules, these sectors wit lots of asteroids become quite useful as your fuel consumption goes up.

  40. Apex says:

    Congratulations folks, we are currently sitting within the top 70 in the corporate leaderboard.

    Unfortunately, you probably noticed the number of join requests we started getting by being one of the highest ranked corporations with available slots. So I have changed the rules from “Request to join” to “closed.” This brings up a question I want to open up to the community here: how do we want to proceed with the Stately Star corp?

    Do we open it up only to forum members on request? Do we implement specific requirements for new members outside the forum? If so, what should those be?

    For those already in the forum who may want to join, please give us a heads up here. That way we can make sure you get in. The great news is we are much easier to find now.

  41. js619 says:

    Agreed - forum members get first shot… as for others, do we require a minimum level / influence? I’m not really sure how to evaluate criteria other than that - hard to tell who’s a decent human being and all.

    However, I’d say anyone who posts drivel in the global chat is automatically disqualified.

  42. I think we definately have a ‘peak time’ as a group, so maybe favour people who apply during peak time, as they are more likely to be online when everyone else is

  43. If we do find 8 decent literate human beings to join, that’ll be a pretty quick boost up the rankings too.

    Looking forward to unwrapping the presents from my inaugural RS3 outing. 47 influence, woohoo.

    Given finite funds, is it better to find and colonise new systems or just spend the cash upgrading the current systems?

  44. js619 says:

    I think it’s a trade off and hard to judge finitely. Upgrading planets gives increased credit and hydro storage, and increases the values of the shipments. Bear in mind that different planets do different things, explained by the magnifying glass. Some produce hydro, some credits, etc. On the downside, it’ll still be limited in the overall number of shipments.

    Colonizing a new planet gives all of that as well, but at increased initial cost for the colonization and upgrading. Also keep in mind the hydro cost used to transport back and forth to that new planet. However, it will give you another planet making shipments and will eventually provide for the additional storage and all.

    Just for illustration, take a look at my system - I’m relatively advanced thanks to a week of vacation and some free time, and I have yet to colonize the sixth planet. It’s on my list but I think I’d rather have some tech first. Hydro is definitely the limiting factor at this point.

    tl;dr - you have to weigh the benefits of upgrading a planet and the limited benefits versus colonizing and the hydro drain that goes with transporting to and from and it’s long term benefits. I’d say if you’re still left wanting for hydro at some points, and you’re at five planets, stay there.

  45. It’s got some interesting choices coming out of the woodwork, this game. When I asked the question, I’d just stumped up the 2.5k for a second local scanner and 10k to scan the 7th sector, and that came up empty (=asteroids + Cerb), and wondered if that was better spent elsewhere. I’ve since scanned and found a planet, that will be my 5th once I work out how to deal with a clump of 3 Sentinals.

    The new weapon modules coming out of the RS3 goodie bags are not obvious choices either. There’s some nice design thought gone into this game. Better than ZG:S anyway, which is why I’ve paid up for the starter pack for HS. Giving money to a F2P game, whatever next?

  46. Agreed with the above, and just wondering why I actually like this game so far even though it has almost all of the hated free-to-play mechanics.

    1. It rewards cooperation and communication, without punishing me for not doing well at those.
    2. Also rewards solo play.
    3. Fun that Apex started a corp for us all!
    4. It’s casual, you can continue to advance with a few minutes a few times a day, but can also get sucked in for an hour, whatever mood and whims and constraints you/we are operating under.
    5. There is a gradual uncovering of new mysteries about how the game works and how upgrades work. You can analyze them and try to optimize them, or just play around with them, whatever you are feeling.
    6. It’s almost never stressful, unless you send your ships into harm’s way and your internet connection blinks out :slight_smile:
    7. It somehow still feels very space exploratory, even though space is a 2d flatland and you have to spend a linear amount of fuel to travel farther.

    Overall it’s a game I consistently like so far, and don’t feel like I have to love, and I will probably get bored of eventually once I understand all the mechanics, but that will take a while and there is no sense of having to rush to get there.

    I guess they have just done a great balancing act of game design as other people have observed, and made my jaded ass realize that it’s possible for a ftp game to be worthwhile. So, I did buy the starter pack of ship building and crystals as a tip of the cap to the developers.

  47. Ive not logged in for a week so I think Im pretty much done here. Youre welcome to leave me in the corp to help the ranking, or remove me if you need the space. Ive got enough money to build a diplomacy station if anyone wants to farm my space, otherwise I will uninstall the app

  48. So, PvP, or Corp vs Corp, arrives in HS. Sounds intriguing *puts Sanct on everything

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