Starborne: Peering Back Through Space And Time

Greetings, Commanders!

The Tournament Server is a culmination of many years of work towards making Starborne the absolute best MMORTS experience.  There have been so many improvements and changes over the last few years that it can be all too easy to overlook where we’ve come from.  Before we take this leap forward, let’s take a look back at our journey so far.  

Alpha 7: Spiraling Towards the Center

Back in late 2017, Alpha 7 was launched as one of the first fully open tests for Starborne.  We expanded our starting locations from 1500 to a then staggering 2500. We tested a spiral galaxy map design, introduced missions, and added the additional map overlays. Looking back, we greatly enjoyed playing on the spiral map, however, we discovered that the central core of the galaxy was far too rich in resources. This lead to a mega-coalition that sat on those key resource spots and controlled the entire galaxy.  We do miss that lovely dark nebula, though!

Key Features:

  • Spiral Galaxy – players were spawned in the named spiral sections
  • New Mission PvE System
  • Compact UI Overlay Windows
  • Destroy NPC Stations for Heavy Ship Assembly and Capital Ship Assembly cards
  • Commodities earned from on map fleet events
  • Victory Condition: Control most Strategic Planets

Alpha 8: Armed Dyson Sphere Garrisons

After experiencing the massive landrush in Alpha 7, we decided that Alpha 8 would need a brand new map with more clearly defined objectives and fewer resource-rich locations.  With that in mind, came the introduction of Grand Terrestrials and Dyson Spheres ushering in a new era – and ways of – dominating the galaxy. The UI was completely overhauled and paired with a graphical upgrade to bring the Starborne universe to life. 

This new map was significantly larger than the Alpha 7 one, supporting up to 5130 concurrent players. This introduced a whole new level of strategy but also some problems in how players traversed the vast distances involved. The Navy Base outpost was introduced as a method for players’ to deploy their force anywhere in the galaxy within 10 hours.  It was intended to encourage more warfare across the galaxy but unfortunately resulted in a cold war type scenario where the first to take action would lose. Players soon realized that it was best to remain out of conflict for as long as possible – quietly building arms and ships – to ensure an overwhelming show of force in the final weeks of the server. 

Players began to focus on establishing tight clusters of stations that revolved around stacking several area-of-effect outposts, like the Habitation Dome and the Stargate.  This meant grabbing the best pockets of space and building there as much as possible was the optimal strategy to adopt. This resulted in the vast areas of the map being left barren; unclaimed and uncontested.  

A fundamental concept in Starborne is player freedom and choices in how they pursue their victory and galactic domination.  Alpha 8 expanded upon these choices with the first iteration of the policy system. Policies are the empire-wide effects that allow you to specialize in several different roles: Imperialistic, Militaristic and Machiavellian.  While this new linear policy tree layout provided useful effects for different specializations, players became locked into their role for the entirety of a server.  

Key Features:

  • Dyson Sphere Victory Condition
  • Introduction of Policies – Policy Tree
  • New, Larger, Map
  • Revamped UI
  • 12 Week Game Rounds
  • Fleet Scheduling Introduced
  • Fake Attacks Required Spies Instead of Fleets
  • Outposts Encouraged Station Clustering
First iteration of the policy system

Alpha 9: Putting the Expansion in 4X

Alpha 9’s underlying design goal was to encourage warfare and expansion across the galaxy.  Wars in previous versions of Alpha were typically decided by one major battle, resulting in one side losing the majority of their fleets and being knocked out.  

The first change was to delay Navy Bases until late in the game, which prevented the Alpha 8 cold war scenarios.  Habitation Domes were revised to not affect an area of stations; reducing the benefit of building stations in a tight cluster.  Players also gained additional fleets by controlling more hexes, which incentivized expansion.  Galactic warfare was fundamentally changed by the introduction of the Forward Operating Base; an alliance structure that can warp huge distances while carrying many fleets.  These FOBs functioned as major points of conflict; facilitating long-distance warfare without the level of risk experienced in Alpha 8.  

With a focus on territory expansion, we wanted to add a feature that gave players an alternative to blowing up existing stations and rebuilding them from scratch.  The Troop Carrier was implemented for this purpose- if a player eliminated all of the defenses on a station, why couldn’t they just claim it? Unfortunately, Troop Carriers made the capturing process a bit too easy, and often resulted in instant captures or station trading between allies, all about that iterative process!

Policies received a huge revamp in Alpha 9- providing many more choices without locking players into a specific role.  Players could choose a faction, which gave its own passive bonuses and then assign a variety of policies based on the slots appropriate to their chosen faction.  Factions and policies could be changed, with some limitations, but ultimately players were free to adapt their playstyle to overcome any challenges they faced.  

Previous Alpha versions required that every player manually schedule their fleets for every raid and assault.  Trying to coordinate assaults as an alliance leader was like trying to herd cats, and errors were common and costly.  Alpha 9 introduced the Alliance Assault feature, which allowed appointed members of an alliance to schedule assaults together against a common target. This was a huge burden taken off alliance leaders’ shoulders, as they could now easily coordinate attacks without having to stress over timings (or player error)! 

Key Features:

  • 8 Week Game Rounds
  • Forward Operating Bases
  • Incentivizing Empire Expansion
  • Troop Carriers
  • Policy System Rework
  • Alliance Assaults – Alliance Management Tools
  • The Tradeport – Better Resource Streaming and Freighters
  • Ship and Combat Balance Pass
  • Labor Range Penalties Removed
  • Fake Attacks Removed

Tournament Server: Looking Forward

Our journey through the Alphas has finally brought us to the Tournament Server.  We’ve learned a lot over the past few years and are putting all of that knowledge into practice.  Each new Alpha has improved upon the previous one, and the Tournament Server is no exception to that rule.

The first priority of the Tournament Server is to continue improving the user experience within the Starborne client.  There are several UI improvements making it easier to manage multiple stations, track achievements, and organize building queues.  Updated claim painters now clearly define your friends and foes and new chat functionalities make it simpler to communicate with them.  Overall cleaner interfaces across the board help make managing your empire as easy as possible. 

FOBs quickly became the popular choice in Alpha 9, and we’re expanding upon that in the Tournament Server.  One of the issues we noted with their original implementation was that it took way too long to build them- and thus, they could quickly become a liability.  We have greatly reduced their build times, but substantially increased their mineral cost. This way, they’re still a valuable target, but alliances with a strong economic focus can quickly get back in the fight.

Station building is getting some serious love with the introduction of the new Building Planner.  The previous version resulted in only a handful of useful build options, and many buildings were just stepping stones for the next tier, outpost, or influence gains.  Each station can now be heavily customized to fit specific needs, and we expect to see plenty of viable station builds across the galaxy.  

The End of an Alpha

The Tournament Server is the result of years of work and dedication from our entire team.  We’d like to give a massive thank you to our entire community – and a special shout-out to the community testing group that has been drudging through the trenches and play-testing with our development team!  Join us on our official discord server to get sneak peeks at all of the upcoming changes. Now is the time to define your place in the foundation of the Starborne Universe.  

The Tournament Server launches on Sunday, December 1st, 2019.

See you on the frontier, commander. 

-Starborne Dev Team