Sword of the Stars was designed from the ground up to be tailored to what you wanted your gameplay arc to be.
How the game plays out tends to scale with the number of stars per player. A game with 10 stars per player yields a tight, fast game, while 15–20 stars will give a fairly normal game. Over 25 stars per player results in an epic struggle and over 40 will give you a very long game. For example:
- A few people, medium size galaxy, 90 second strategy turns, 2 minute combat rounds, multiple initial technologies and colonies & you have a cool little frantic cut throat game on your hands for an hour or so.
- A few people, 300 stars, cluster configuration, no timer on strategy turns, 4 or 5 minute combat rounds, open slots so people can come and go from the game as they choose or can & you have a game that could last months depending on how often everyone plays.
You could play a couple hours a night for a month or conversely everyone can have it up and being played at work as it is a Windows application that minimizes nicely and makes subtle noises at you when you are late with your turn.
You are able to choose either a random galaxy or from one of the pre–set scenarios.
No matter if you choose to play Single Player or Multiplayer, the setup for Random Galaxy Creation is the same, with only the password options restricted to multiplayer only.
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Random Galaxy Creation
When you set up a random galaxy you are able to choose:
- Shape of galaxy
- Number of Stars in the galaxy
- Average Distance between stars
- Average size of planets
- Average Resources of planets
- Number of players (human or AI)
- Available Species
- Economic efficiency slider
- Research efficiency slider
- Allow Alliances (default on)
- Allow Teams (default off)
- Random Encounters (default on)
- Amount of money every player starts with in their Treasury
- Number of colonies every player starts with in their Empire
- Number of technologies each player starts off having already researched
- Length of the strategic turns (default unlimited)
- Length of the real time combat rounds (default 4 minutes)
- Difficulty setting
- Set both Game and Player passwords for Multiplayer games
- Player Species
- Player Avatar
- Player Badge
- Preferred color
The current predefined shapes are Sphere, Clusters, Spiral, Arm, Hourglass, Rift, 2D, Hollow Sphere, Globular Clusters, Galactic Collision, Tube, Ring, Stellar Nursery, Barred, Disk, Barbell, Clouds, Cubes, Sinusoid, Helix, and Mountain. Custom and Random options are also available.
Number of Stars
Presently galaxies range from 16 to 350 systems.
This setting changes the average distance between stars in the galaxy. It ranges from 5 to 9 light years.
This setting changes the average size of planets in the galaxy. It ranges from -35% smaller to 35% bigger then the "normal" planet size.
This setting changes the average resources of planets in the galaxy. It ranges from -20% less to 20% more then the "normal" amount of planet resources.
Number of Players and Available Species
When starting a random galaxy you have the option of setting both the number of players and the available species allowed in the game. You can have anywhere from 2 to 8 players in your game. You can also restrict the available species allowed in your game by clicking on or off the colored box next to a species name. If a box is unchecked, that species will not be available to be selected on the Player Setup screen and won't show up in your game as either a Player empire or an independent.
The Economic and Research sliders
When starting a random galaxy you have the option to determine the speed of Economic and Research output. These sliders affect all players in the game, both AI and Human. Both sliders range from 50% to 150% in 1% increments.
These sliders allow you to further customize the style of game you will be playing. Adjusting these sliders will allow you to increase or decrease the speed with which things happen in game. For example: if you wish to increase the rate at which everyone in the game researches Technology, then you would increase the research slider, or if you would prefer to play a game in which Technology is only slowly improved, then you would decrease the research slider.
Allow Alliances and Teams
When starting a random galaxy you have the option of allowing the creation of Alliances and, after version 1.2.1, the setting of unbreakable Teams. Alliances are created through diplomacy and can be created or broken at any time. The game default is to allow Alliances. Teams are created when the game is created, on the Player setup screen. Teams are permanent alliances, with no way to change or break them during the game. The game default is to not allow Teams.
The game includes random events, both in the Strategy rounds and the Combat rounds. These encounters can include research accidents, asteroid strikes and invasions by unknown aliens. The game default is to allow Random Encounters.
Additional Random Events have been implemented with every Update to the game thus far.
When starting a random galaxy you have the option of choosing how advanced the game is by changing the amount of the starting Treasury, technologies and starting colonies. Customizing this allows you to increase or decrease the length of the game and the relative speed at which events occur between the Empires in the game.
You can set the Initial Treasury from 0 to 10,000,000 in 50,000 increments.
You can set the Initial Colonies from 1 to 10.
You can set the Initial Technologies from 0 to 15.
Length of Turns
When starting a random galaxy you have the option of choosing how long strategic and tactical rounds last. The default Strategic round is of unlimited duration while the default Tactical round lasts four minutes. You have the option of going from 60 to 600 seconds in 15 second increments when choosing the tactical round duration while the strategic turn can be set anywhere from 60 seconds up to unlimited time, also in 15 second increments. Turn length can be changed during the game only on game load up.
Customizing this allows you to speed up or slow down the game, so you could play "Speed SotS" with 180 second Strategic rounds and two minute combat rounds, or "Sedate SotS" with no time limit on Strategic rounds and five minute combat rounds.
You can set the "intelligence" of the AI for any given Empire to one of three difficulty settings.
- If a player position is set to Easy, the player gets both a x1.5 economic and a x1.5 research advantage (multiplicative; total x2.25 research speed)
- If an AI position is set to Easy, the AI position gets no bonuses.
- If a player position is set to Normal, the player position gets no bonuses.
- If an AI position is set to Normal, the AI gets a x1.1 (approximately) economic bonus and a x1.5 research bonus.
- If a player position is set to Difficult, the player position gets no bonuses.
- If an AI position is set to Difficult, the AI gets both a x1.7 economic and a x2 research advantage (multiplicative; total x3.4 research speed)
These settings can be made both as a overall game wide setting and as a independent per player setting. Setting per player AI's to different levels gives those AI's the penalties or advantages inherent to those settings, overriding the overall game setting. So if the overall game is set to hard and a specific AI player is set to normal, that specific AI player would lose the Hard advantages AI's get. Applying a per player difficulty level to a human player is indeed like setting the main game difficulty. Any per player bonuses re-establish themselves should the player position return to AI use.
The economic and research advantages gained by the difficulty settings are multiplied with the Economic and Research sliders. Additionally, the AI does not pay to maintain ships it builds. There is no cap on the AI's ability to think ahead, but with the additional resources it has on Difficult (and to some extent Normal), it is able to do a better job of it. The more power and resources at the AI's command the easier it is for it to plan farther ahead, giving its longer range plans more viability and hence keeping those plans in its "thoughts" longer.
Often pre–set scenarios will set specific behaviors or advantages for an AI side that will make them more of a challenge than even the actual setting.
Some examples of specific behaviors or advantages:
- other Empires starting with higher technology level
- other Empires starting with larger numbers of ships
- other Empires starting with larger numbers of colonies
- other Empires being less likely to form Non–Aggression Pacts and/or Alliances
Game and Player Passwords
When starting a random Multiplayer galaxy you have the option of setting a password for the game itself and allowing Players to password protect their playing positions, preventing other players (including the host) from viewing their game. The password protection option can be set to on or off on a per–session basis and it will be visible in the lobby.
Each game can have up to eight human or AI players. This screen (which appears after clicking on the "Create Game" button) is where those players decide what Species they want to play, what Avatar they want to represent them in game, what Badge they want to display on their ships and planets and what color they want their Empire to be displayed as. Players can also leave these decisions up to chance by leaving them at the default value of "Random". In a single player game, the Player can also set the Species, Avatar, Badge and Color of the AI players or leave them at the default value of "Random".
The Players can select any of the available species to play in any of the available slots. If the host disabled one or more species during game setup, those species will not be shown. The Players can also change slots by dragging their player name from one slot to another.
After selecting a species, the Players can then select from the available in game Avatars and Badges.
Each player also chooses from one of the available pre–selected (and tested) colors to represent themselves.
Kerberos Productions have designed several badges relating to number of games won and as which of the races. These badges must be earned by winning games. Expansions and sequels will, of course, add more badges. Do it yourself badging has not been included because the developers feel that it invites endless porn shots. However, it is possible to create a mod that includes more badges or avatars, though this may cause errors in multiplayer games unless all players are using the same mods.
The retail version of SotS and BoB will not support multiple instances out–of–the–box. But AMoC might (see below).
Here's why: Windows/Direct3D9 has a flaw in its scheme for sharing video memory resources. What this usually means is that multiple 'heavy' D3D applications running simultaneously on the same machine will often have missing/mangled textures and geometry. Mileage will vary depending on the video card/driver combination and the resources used by each application, but SotS is a heavy user on a minimum specification system, so likelihood of corruption is high.
As a result, when you launch SotS, it first checks to see if another SotS game window is present and just switches focus if it finds one. However, starting with Version 1.6.3, an advanced buyer–beware command line switch called "/concurrent" has been added that may allow multiple instances to be started up. Kludgy takes no responsibility for any work or limbs lost in a resulting explosion.
For information on using Multiple installations, for example to play with both a older version of the game while still being able to play the newest version, pleases see the Multiple installations page.
Winning the Game
In random games military dominance is the one true victory condition — everyone else must surrender or be crushed in order for victory to be achieved. However this condition can be achieved either by yourself or in alliance with other players in the game.
One of the scenarios shipping with the game is Hiver Invasion. The other races (See: Liir, Human and Tarka) must survive and fight back against a MASSIVE Hiver invasion fleet coming from off board and rolling across the map towards them.
Right now, there are the multiple victory badges for each race. 25 wins as a certain race gives you access to the victory badge for that race. Getting 4 gives you the 100 victory badge. Expansions and sequels will, of course, add more badges.