Hey everyone!

It’s been quite a while since I posted a comprehensive update, but with the holidays in full swing, and a clear path towards 1.0, I wanted to talk about where we’ve (and I’ve) been, where we are, and where we’re going.

To begin, I guess it’s telling to understand where we’ve been. Born Imperia, later Alliance of the Sacred Suns, or AotSS, has been a passion/hobby project for the last 4.5 years of my life, mostly done part time, and at the beginning it was not even a consideration that it would ever be anything that would make a dime, much less be my career. Before that, I’d designed mostly tabletop games, with a few computer projects that were basically done to help me learn programming languages – making games is a lot more fun than doing exercises in a book!

Anyway, the point is that the development plan of Imperia/AotSS was basically unplanned and very ‘I do what I feel like doing at this point in time’ for a very long time, years really. It was only with time that I realized that the game could be something that I could potentially sell for money, and that was when I made the decision to basically restart development from XNA to C# and Unity, which probably (obviously) added several years to the development cycle but clearly in hindsight was the best decision I could have made.

So I started selling AotSS last February on a WordPress site for basically a ‘take a chance on this crazy project price’ and while it never made any great money, it made enough to pay the bills and keep KatHawk Studios solvent while I struggled to figure out just what I had with this game. The plan was to keep working on the game here and there while I concentrated on my primary job as a manager with a Fortune 500 company – it was a secure job with a great salary, excellent benefits, and perks like a company car and stock gifts yearly. Certainly I never dreamed that I could make enough with AotSS to leave, even though I had discovered that I had a passion for programming and designing games, especially complex and thought-provoking games that put you in the seat of… something, be it a fighter jet, a starship CIC, or an empire.

And then my publisher entered the picture.

I will be able to say much more about them and the opportunity soon (probably another month) but they gave me, and AotSS, the opportunity of a lifetime. They were giving KatHawk the financial ability to go full-time, and I had a life-altering decision to make: stay the course at my current job, and ride it possibly into retirement, or take the plunge relatively late in life (I’m almost 44) and jump into some notoriously cold and unforgiving waters?

After a lot of reflection, and talking with friends in the business, and especially my family, I put on my Speedos, strapped on my goggles, took a very deep breath, and jumped in full-throttle in August of this year.

And what a change it was! Now there were milestones and plans and content and my head was spinning taking a crash course in what it meant to develop a professional game – and what it means to be a professional game developer. I still don’t feel that I deserve that title – but technically, I am doing game design and development for a living, and I am backed by a publisher with significant resources that will allow the dream of AotSS to finally come to fruition, so I guess the title fits. I will actually be writing about this experience more extensively – the transition from working manager to indie game designer at my age is fairly unique and a journey that I think many may be interested in.

So that’s where I’ve been. Now let’s talk about where we are.

We’re making excellent progress with the UI update – we hope to have the entire UI swapped out by the middle of February 2020. It sounds like a lot of time, and it is, but we want this to be the definitive update and based on your early feedback, it sounds like we’re headed in the right direction with that! We’re also adding a lot of new art – we’ve got all new icons for events and Projects, new Characters (the first batch of 44 was just put into .8.2.1 – after that about 50 a month will be added until we hit our goal of 150 new base faces) – as well as some randomization with dozens of hats, tattoos, jewelry, coats, facial accoutrements, etc. While not a true ‘facegen’ system, this approach gives us the ability to create unique portraits while still providing a very high quality base facial experience!

Also, we are working on a new grand theme for AotSS, and it should be in by the .8.3 update. It’s really nice, and it’s done by a professional composer who has worked on numerous Hollywood projects. We think you’ll really like the direction of the music! We’re also working on new Story/Event and interstitial art that more accurately conveys the universe of AotSS, and that should be added in January.

For this update, the major add is the Celestial Council system. Here is where you can appoint (and fire) your advisors that create policy for the Empire, and determine which Houses will have the most influence over your Empire. You could always stack the deck with your own House, but the other Houses will resent this, and you will have difficulty maintaining order if you do this before you’re ready to face the consequences of having the other Houses refuse to work with you!

We’re going to be expanding this system, including a way to repeal bills that have been passed, and a way to see all the active bills in the Empire. But it’s a good start. The other area that we continue to work on is the Emperor system. For next update, you’re going to see a lot of changes in what you can do, including the ‘Burden of Guilt’ system and the Personal Development system, which will take the game to have almost RPG elements. – you’ll have development points that you get each time you do something, and you can change your character’s skills and their personality traits. What’s cool is that if you’re a happy, positive person to begin with, it will give you a huge guilty conscience to do Tyrannical or evil things, which will hammer your Spirit – but you can slowly change the type of person you are , to be capable of doing more tyrannical things and be OK with it.

Remember, the core of AotSS is that you are the emperor, and the game needs to make you feel like you’re a real person, not a gray eminence.

So that’s where we are. Now let’s talk about where we’re going.

By far, the largest challenge to a game like AotSS that bends the norms of what a 4X ‘should’ be is the different systems that come into play. Projects, Actions, Inquisitors, Emperor development, Events, Holdings, Claims… we’re absolutely breaking new ground on a 4X. This ain’t your father’s 4X, at all. That said, what we have found is when people actually understand what we’re doing and understand how to play – and realize that they can’t control everything, but they must go along to get along in many cases – that’s when they realize this is a special game. So we understand that a robust tutorial is critical to this game, along with extensive tooltipping and LP tutorial videos. By February, we should have a significant in-game tutorial that walks you through setting up your empire, how the UI works, and what you should be doing. I will also be recording several LP tutorial videos this week since we’re closing in on the full game being added (just military, the Xyl, and outside civs are to be added as far as core game play systems).

The military system will be the major add for the rest on .8, and I think y’all are going to love it. It ties so many of the core systems like power, system control, riots, unrest, and giving you additional ways to be a bad guy – remember, the ultimate goal of the game is to stop the Xyl from building the Rescension Engine, which means that you’ll probably have to upgrade your military significantly – but will your people (and other Houses) fear the buildup, or can you show them that you’re doing it for the greater good? Remember, they don’t know about the Xyl until very late in the game – and by then it’s too late to build your military if you haven’t already.

We’re also working on localization, and while we haven’t finalized the languages yet, we’re trying to make the game as accessible to as many people as possible around the world. With a game this text-heavy, this is no small thing, but as with other aspects of AotSS, we want to do it right!

So that’s great, Steve, and when is all this going to be done so I can check out your crazy grand plan? Well, we’re still knocking that around with the publisher, but what we agree on is that this game has the change to be really special, a genre-changer, and we don’t want to rush it. So we should have some news on the final release date soon, but know that it won’t be released until it’s ready – that’s part of our KatHawk Studio Bill of Rights, and we’re passionate about working on games to a Blizzard-level shine and sheen. Not to say that it will be a AAA game like Blizzard, but the fact that they refused to release games before they were truly ‘ready’ and as bug-free as they could be made always inspired me to buy every Blizzard game I could, even if I didn’t really like them, just to show my support towards that kind of service.

So that’s the update! Lot of words, and I’m sorry I haven’t written more, but we’ve been busy, trust me! We think you’re going to like the changes you’ll see over the next few months, and if you have the game, keep checking for updates – we will be pushing updates out almost weekly going forward. We’d love your feedback, and we’ll be working on making the game as accessible as possible going forward. Also, look for more videos that teach how to play – and the UI will change with every update (in a positive way, we hope!) We really, really need your feedback on the UI – we think it’s going to a good place but we want you, the player, to give your say.

Until later – thank you for your support!


Hey everyone – been a while, right? So I’ll get to the good news right off the bat: I’ve been working on the game for a little while and have started on 3 key features: pops opinion feedback (in other words, why is my stability dropping on a planet?), the character/House AI, and the save/load system! Those are my 3 huge priorities before I call .6 complete. There will be some other tweaks, including more planets, an easier font typeface for some parts of the UI, the completion of the financial main screen, etc. but those are the big ones.

So that’s all well and good, you say, but where have you been? Good question. It started a few months ago with a 2-week trip out of the state for work, and I didn’t have a chance to do anything with the game at that time. When I got back, I had some issues that I had to take care of from a family standpoint – nothing major, but necessary. By then it was June and when I finally had some time to restart development, I realized that I wasn’t looking forward to it like I always had. In the past, I’d stay up until 2-3 AM working on something (I’m a night person) and not think twice about it. Now, I almost dreaded going to the computer. And I realized something at that point – I was burned out on the game.

You have to understand that I’ve been working on Imperia/AotSS more or less by myself (from a coding standpoint, anyway) for almost 4 years. In that time, I’ve had some artistic and game design support, most notably by Oliver, but for anything to actually be done in the game, I had to code and implement it. Even the smallest indie studios that release commercial-quality games typically have 4-8 people working full-time. The smallest I can think of that make games that people who would play AotSS would be Zero Sum Games (one person; StarDrive series) and Arcen Games (two people; AI War, The Last Federation, etc) but even they do it full-time as their main job. I am not in a position to make KatHawk Studios a full-time proposition (for now, anyway) so I’m caught in the position of assuming 100% development responsibility for a project that I can’t devote 8 hours a day to. So I’ve worked around the gaps in my life that don’t involve family, other social events/duties, and work. That leaves very little time for… me. And I think that finally caught up to me.

Since then, I’ve been refreshed and gotten the nice break that I needed, but of course I could have been more forthright about where I’ve been. One thing that I’ve always struggled with, even professionally, is taking relatively small issues and letting them spiral because I have an unreasonable fear of the results. In this case, all I would have had to do is post a blog saying that I was taking a month or two off and I’m sure most people who understand the development situation would understand. However, since I let it get to this huge thing in my mind, it became harder and harder to respond. So I take full responsibility for not explaining things sooner, and I’m sorry for that.

So that’s the first part. The second part is this: I have taken out some small loans to fund AotSS. This project was never about me making any substantial amount of money (I have not made a single dime on this project – all monies received have gone towards development, profit share, or loan repayment) and I don’t expect that to change. However, I do have to raise some money to keep development going (art, mostly) and continue to pay off the company debt. It’s not much, just a few thousand, but it’s not nothing either and I can’t use my personal income to pay it off instead (kids aren’t cheap, folks!!) So I have basically a few options left:

  1. Raise the price on AotSS
  2. Start a massive advertising/marketing campaign to increase sales
  3. Take out another loan
  4. Start a Kickstarter
  5. End the project and write off my losses

I don’t want to do #1; in fact, my plan is to keep the price at $7.99 even into .7 as a good will gesture. Naturally, this will not help my cashflow, but it’s the right thing to do.

#2 is a necessity, but I’m not a marketer and the person who really did that well (Oliver) is no longer an active part of the project due primarily to his own projects and life goals. And of course, actual advertising takes money which I am not flush with. So any sort of marketing would have to be guerrilla in nature.

(Huge shout outs at this point to eXplorminate and Space Game Junkie; y’all have been tremendous in your support!)

I really don’t want to do #3 since I already have 2 loans outstanding and unless I was going to do this full time (in which case I would bite the bullet and really do it right and take out like $150K to staff up and office out) I need to keep the debt load where it is.

I don’t want to give up 4+ years of work and let down numerous people and customers either, so I can’t face #5 as an option.

That leaves #4. I once swore that I would not do a Kickstarter – the idea of people paying for a project that they might never see gave me chills. However, as I study my options in my unique development situation, it may be the last resort. Many people have reached out to me over the years asking whether I would do one, and I always told them ‘no’. I am proud of the fact that AotSS is self-financed and funded, and I never asked for a penny for Imperia because I believed (and still do!) in the game and idea. But business considerations have made it to where I need to bring in some revenue to pay for art at a minimum. We don’t need a lot (relative to game development costs), but I estimate it will take about $5,000 to finish the game at a basic level.

So after much deliberation, I will do my best to do #2 and #4 to keep AotSS and KHS going. I don’t have any firm details about backing levels, but I can tell you that virtually all of the rewards will be game-based. I know for sure I will have unique characters for backers and for higher tiers, custom Houses, and things like planets and systems and provinces can also be named. Beyond that I have a few ideas but I’m still deciding on them. Once the project launches on Kickstarter I will let everyone know. Also, anyone who has already purchased will get a KS reward to be determined.

In addition, if anyone out there is interested in helping with the project on a part-time level, let’s talk. You can email me at steve@imperia5x.com and let me know what you would be willing to do, your skill set, etc. I primarily need some programming help (C#/Unity knowledge required) and a new artist who genuinely loves this project and what we’re trying to accomplish. Art would be paid per asset project; all other assistance is negotiable. (But obviously, if you’re looking to make $60K on this, keep looking. 🙂

Once again, I’m sorry about my communication and lack of progress. I’m human, and I don’t have a lot of support at this point WRT actually creating and coding the game. I’m not looking for sympathy, but I do want y’all to understand the situation. And believe me, I’m far from the only small indie to struggle. It’s an inherent risk in developing a game of this complexity. If I simply wanted to make money, I’d churn out puzzle games on mobile platforms. I have the expertise to do that. But it’s not my passion. This project is, small blips notwithstanding, and I will see it to the end.



Hello everyone! Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything, and I’m sorry. Let me get that out of the way up front. I’ll be apologizing a lot so buckle up, folks.

Anyway, I could give you a lot of reasons why there hasn’t been a lot of activity on AotSS for the last 4 months or so, but in the end it comes down to burnout. As you may now, I have a new now 9 month old who is very healthy, energetic, and BUSY! I also have a full-time job that takes 50-55 hours a week depending on what’s happening, and I’ve been battling through some personal issues. So with all that going on, I’ve been working on Imperia/AotSS for almost 4 years in some form or another. Most of it is very low-level work on a hobby, but obviously the last year has been more focus on providing a product from our studio, KatHawk Studios.

So, as a human, when you have a lot going on around you and you have something that you’ve been hammering on for years, sometimes you just need to step back and take a break. And that’s what I did. Where I failed is to not keep those of you interested in the game in the loop. That was selfish of me and I deeply apologize for that.

So with that being said, I’ll start with the bad news first: Oliver has left the project. Completely understandably, since there hasn’t been anything moving on it for quite a while and you reach a point where you need to see some progress. I apologize to him for the lack of progress and I wish him nothing but the best and I certainly hope circumstances change in the future and he comes back at some point. Because..

The good news is that I’m restarting development of AotSS semi-full time. I have obtained additional funding sufficient to complete the entire game to 1.0 without ‘needing’ sales to fund development. Even though Oliver has left, we have an essentially complete GDD so I will be able to finish what is essentially our vision. There is a tremendous amount that was part of the game design, and while we will include about 70% of it in the initial release, some will have to wait for a future time. When you have a huge project, you must get to ‘what makes this game ‘this game’? and ‘if I cut this, will it change the core ‘feel’ of the game? With that in mind, I will be breaking down the new release schedule shortly, including pricing and the thinking behind it.

With the restart, some other things will be happening. We will be updating our web site by next month. We will be adding our forum, the blog, a news feed, and our eCommerce system for digital download of early release versions of AotSS. We will also increase activity on our forums, our Twitter, and our FB pages. Our KHG channel will have updates weekly, some a ‘developer’ update, some ‘game play’ and some LP, but you will get some sort of content weekly. To keep myself honest, I will be posting an update schedule shortly here on what channels will have what updates. But I vow not to leave anybody else in the dark on this project going forward. I am also always accessible on my email at steve@imperia5x.com or the twitter channel of @KatHawkGames.

So what about that early release schedule? We’re going to release our first version publicly around September 7-10th. It will be priced at $7.99. Why so cheap, Steve? Glad you asked! I’m not a fan (at all) of doing the ‘make early adopters pay through the nose to get in early’ model. Since this is a new property, and bluntly, I haven’t been consistent with my timetables, I want to give people the chance to come in on the ground floor at a very low price so that the risk is as low as I can make it. You will have a full game, but a lot of features will not be there. I feel that this is a good compromise between ‘release it for the people who want it early’ and ‘stay true to my promise of quality and not screw over your fans’. I got excited all over again when I get comments asking how the game is coming along, and we were mentioned on a lot of ‘strategy/4X games looking forward to for 2017’ lists – including 2nd on eXplorminate’s poll of ‘which indie game are you most excited about in 2017’?  That’s pretty cool.

So I’m excited again, and you should be too. Let’s do this together.

So without further ado, the release roadmap!

(.5) Currently in Testing – No Public Release (beta testing active)

(.6) ‘Archimedes’ Release – $7.99 – Release in early September through our web site
Will have all main screens, trade/economy/Pops/migration/unrest/popular support/planetary development systems, character Power system, alert bar, AP system, Focuses on planets (agriculture, mines, military, government, etc), about 30% of all Projects, core Houses/Cultures, economic screen, about 50% 3D planets, some sounds, about 15% of all Character Actions, ability to remove/fire Viceroys and Governors, love/fear systems for characters, basic win and lose conditions (win when Popular Support > 80% throughout your Empire; lose when Popular Support < 20% and depose/assassinate check fails), full turn engine cycle.
No Character Decision/Goal AI (economic and role AI will be present, such as intelligently managing planets/systems)
No Music (or maybe 1-2 temporary tracks)
No Save System
Balance will be an issue

(.7) ‘Newton’ Release – $14.99 – Release in early December through our web site
Will have all of Archimedes, and:
– Music (a few tracks)
– More sounds
– Basic character decision AI (2 ‘ultimate’ goals: Survival and Status) out of 9
– 60% of Projects (approx. 50 in final release)
– 40% of Character Actions (approx. 100 in final release)
– Some mid-tier cultures, all inner cultures and Houses
– Science system implementation begin (about 50%)
– Continued polish on UI and UI for science system implemented
No Save System. It will be present in this version but not activated until .8.

(.8) ‘Hubble’ Release – $19.99 – Release in March 2018 through our web site
Will have all of Newton, and:
– Save System implemented
– All cultures implemented
– Emperor screen (diary) partially implemented
– Science system completed
– Intel system start implementation (Inquisitors, secrets, plots)
– Expanded character decision AI (added 2 more ‘ultimate’ goals: Generic (‘normal’) and Wealth)
– All 3D planets and nebulas implemented
– Most sounds
– More music (4-5 tracks)
– Very basic Xyl plot starters
– 80% of Projects
– 50-60% of Character Actions
– Continued balancing
– Bug fixes

(.9) ‘Sagan’ Release – $24.99 – Release in June 2018 (Steam Early Release Candidate)
Will have all of Hubble, and:
– Combat system partially implemented
– Religious system partially implemented
– Emperor screen fully implemented
– Intel system fully implemented
– All cultures and Houses implemented
– Expanded character decision AI (added 2 more ‘ultimate’ goals: Human Needs and Power)
– All sounds added
– All UI elements added
– More music (7-9 tracks)
– Intro/win/loss videos
– Xyl ‘ending play setup’ partially implemented
– 80% of Character Actions completed
– All Projects added
– Continued balance and bug fixes

(1.0) ‘Copernicus’ Release – $29.99 – Release in August-September 2018 (Steam Release)
Will have all of Sagan, all Xyl plot, and all remaining systems/music/sounds/’puff’ – the ‘basic full game’ as described in our GDD.

So that’s the plan. I’ll write a follow-up blog in a few days with more detail and possibly some new UI screens. Until then… stay safe out there, it’s a big universe!


Hello everyone; long time no see! It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog, and this blog is going to be a little different. It’s not going to have any new features about AotSS, nor will it have a timetable or cool screenshots. We’ll have those shortly. No, I wanted to take a bit of soapbox time to talk about where I’ve been and why.

So, the first thing people need to remember about programming: it’s hard. Even for people who have degrees in this sort of thing, it’s hard. And I don’t have any kind of programming certificate, degree, or even a course. Everything I’ve learned has come from teaching myself, except for one computer science class in high school. I was very, very good at programming – was nationally ranked, in fact (yes, they have contests for programming in high school!) – but I didn’t think I could pursue it as a career since I didn’t much care for the math part of things. So I went to college, and put aside my programming.

Throughout the years, I kept coming back to programming for fun. I taught myself C++ with an Ivor Horton book that must have weighed 10 pounds. But I loved to learn, and slowly I put myself through pointers, address memory, OOP, classes, structures, and advanced topics like recursion and data structures. I had some knowledge at this point, but no game. So I started to imagine a world where humanity was hanging on by a thread, having been invaded by aliens that came through a stargate that humans built themselves – the ultimate Trojan horse. You were the supreme human commander, responsible for fighting the aliens (even then, called the Xyl) on Earth and holding them off long enough to accomplish your other objective: to assist the surgical team that went through the stargate using coordinates discovered during recovery of the plans to build the gate, only to discover that they were part of a galactic competition to determine the next master race of the universe for the next 100,000 years. That game design was called Perihelion, and I designed it almost 20 years ago. It seems quaint now, but back then I was roaring with excitement to program it and show it to the world.

Only one problem: I had no idea how to start a project of this magnitude! I was 22, and the Build engine was still being used. Programming games was still something of a black box process – there was no Unity, no DarkBASIC, no YouTube tutorials to walk you through creating levels, and certainly no iPads to download manuals and upload code – no, you had paper books and phones to call friends for help. So after a few false starts, I gave up on that for the time being.

Years passed – I grew my management career, got married, settled down, and looked at what life would be past 35, then 40, and wondered if I had truly given things a fair shot with game design. So I went back to the drawing board about 6 years ago, taught myself Visual Basic, and designed a strategic space combat program based on the Honorverse. You could command ships of different sizes and in the prototype, you had to detect and engage the enemy using gravity signatures generated from impeller wedges. It was surprisingly fun, and I did end up posting it in a few places, but obviously I couldn’t do anything real with it because a) Honorverse and licensed properties and stuff and b) it was still very rough, and I wasn’t comfortable with showing it off. However, for the purposes of this blog, for the first time in almost half a decade, I’m showing off screenshots of my first ‘real’ game project:

As you can see, even though it was Visual Basic and the graphics were basically one step above spreadsheets, it was a really fun game. The ships had very intelligent AI – they had numerous tactics that they could use, and their captains had a fear/bravery rating as well as an intelligence rating that would determine which tactics they would use, what range they would fire at, etc. Not bad for a first project, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I stopped working on it, and another few years went by.

About 5 years ago, I designed a solo board game called Star Requiem: Humanity’s Last Stand (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/122248/star-requiem-humanitys-last-stand) that was based on a continuation of the history that I had started with the Perihelion design. I actually finished that game, and was working on a computer version when I had the idea to design a new game around what happened after humanity fought the Xyl to a standstill. What would their culture look like? How would the remnants of the human race spread? How far would society slide backwards? What would happen to technology? What would losing 70% of your entire species in another war do to a species? That’s what I set out to answer, and I knew from the very beginning that the game would be based on the last emperor – a child, with very little power, destined to bring humanity back from the brink of the final Xyl assault to destroy humans once and for all. And I knew at the core of the game would be the Action Point system: as Emperor, you would only be able to do certain things depending on where you were, and only so many actions per month – you were not omniscient and not a being with unlimited time and energy. I was so excited about the premise that I couldn’t wait to start! I taught myself yet another engine (Windows XNA) and set to work on what was to become Imperia.

So about 6 months into that project, I started posting pictures and almost immediately, people were interested in the concept. Very interested. I got offers to help and eventually took one from an artist named Pavlos who helped me refine the ‘hard’ science and the look and feel of the game. We reached a point where I had enough of a game and there was enough interest that there was one question: did I want to create a studio and actually sell this thing?

Well, the old self-doubt crept in, and I hemmed and hawed for months, until finally I decided to take the plunge. I made the agonizing decision to basically scrap what was complete with Imperia (basically it was about 60% done) and convert to a totally new engine and language. After some research, I settled on C# and Unity. After learning yet ANOTHER new language and engine, I was ready to work (Note to prospective indie programmers: Pick a popular language and stick with it. I wish I had!).

So it’s been a little over a year since that decision was made. I took out a loan, hired another artist (Ogi Schneider), and partnered with an amazingly intelligent and creative man named Oliver Milne who really helped flesh out the backstory and universe of Imperia, eventually to become Alliance of the Sacred Suns. And even working part-time, even having a baby and all that brings, even with challenges from my primary job, we kept chugging along. We were slow to milestones, but we were learning, and understanding what we could do and how much we could do in a given month.

And then January 2017 hit, and that old feeling came back that I’ve fought for almost 20 years:


Fear that my best wasn’t going to be good enough, that this project was an immense undertaking for one person to program, that the concept of AotSS was so ludicrous because it’s not quite a 4X, not quite a TBS, not quite a political game, but parts of all 3. It’s certainly unique, but would people actually like it? I started to doubt my abilities to finish this game, doubt the premise, doubt the 4+ years I have spent getting to this point, doubt all the time and energy invested in programming, testing, designing, fixing, bug-chasing, and still feeling like there was so far to go. It was like that dream you have where you’re trapped in a room, and the door keeps moving farther and farther away from you, no matter how fast you run towards it. and you can’t go backward. What do you do?

I stopped. I was paralyzed, feeling despondent that I couldn’t reach that door, like it was taunting me. It was depressing me, literally. I couldn’t face programming. I’d code for about 20 minutes, then it felt like the screen was laughing at me, daring me to attempt to add a new feature, whispering ‘What’s the point? Nobody’s going to play your stupid game anyway…’ and I would give in to the voices and break off. It felt like an overwhelming task – like eating the elephant, except my elephant regenerated every morning, even bigger than before, but all I had was the same damn spoon to work with.

And that fear started affecting other parts of my life – it affected my confidence, my focus, and it impacted almost every part of my life. I could almost hear the little voice inside me every day: ‘So you’re going to give up on this one too, just like you’ve always done. All. Your. Life.’


The line in the sand will be drawn here. And now.

I’ve decided that I don’t give a damn what the voices say, or what other people think, or how crazy our game design is. I’m very proud of what we’re trying to do, the design we’ve worked on for years, and the story we have written (well, Oliver mainly) for AotSS is amazing, and it deserves to come out. And I can’t let my doubts and fears override that need. It’s hard sometimes, especially when it’s not your main source of income, but I have made a vow to myself and the team that I WILL finish this game. I WILL see it through to the end, and I’ve written this very long post because I need to share this vow with the public and put out there my feelings and emotions to how I got to this point.

It’s been hard to type this blog, and it’s pretty personal for a game diary, but that’s the most honest explanation for why there hasn’t been a lot of progress over the last several weeks. I promise there will be a new video up in the next day or two. I keep putting it off because honestly, I never feel like what we have so far is good enough to show – the old self-doubt creeps in and I think ‘just one more feature and I can show it’ or ‘let’s stomp one more bug and then people won’t laugh’.

Enough. Enough. It is what it is, a work in progress by a small indie studio, not EA’s latest AAA title. I know I’m not as talented as some other developers, but I was once the 17th best programmer in the United States in high school, and by God I can finish this game.

And that’s just what I intend to do. I love all of your support and those who read these blogs and follow along and have done so for the last 3 years. Your patience will pay off. I swear it.

Now back to work on 4.7.0a!




Hey all!

This is Steve, lead developer of Alliance of the Sacred Suns. This is a quick blog to talk a little bit about the relative lack of updates from me! Basically, it’s hard having a baby, especially when you’re still working full-time as well as trying to complete an alpha for a game.

Although Ethan has been a great baby, he’s still a baby, with baby needs and baby volume, and with my 50 hour a week job, it’s been difficult for me to find time to develop. Oliver and Ogi have continued to work on the writing and the graphics, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found a new balance, my wife has been supportive with my efforts to rebalance everything, and have been able to successfully work on the game again.

We’re back on track and be ready to hear a lot about what we’re doing in the near future. I just wanted to muse a bit on how much your life changes when you have a kid for the first time and how much harder it is to get up in the morning! So this is a combination thanks to the team for carrying on and an apology that I haven’t posted more stuff in the last month or so. I promise to make up for lost time :-p

We’re going all-out on the .5 build for this month and it should be ready by the end of November. We’re starting to look at a target date for an alpha release that you can purchase. We’re not yet ready to set a date but we’re getting closer to that decision. We’re also in the process of redesigning our web site so we’ll have a one stop shop for all things AotSS in the near future. As always, you can catch up with the updates on the forum or this blog. Thanks for everyone’s patience – as some of you may know, it’s hard being indie!

-Ave imperator!


Hey everyone!

If it seems like I’ve been away for a while, it’s because I have. My wife and I welcomed our first child to the family, Ethan Hawkins, last Tuesday 9/20, but not without complications – basically he had to spend almost a week in the NICU due to various complications from being born 3 weeks early. The great news is that the little guy is doing great and will be coming home today, which means that that’s a load off my mind!

So with that behind us, as much as I can, AotSS will be back in production. I have some time off from my main job and while obviously a lot of that time will be used to bond with mom and son, I will be working hard on .5 as we ready for a pre-alpha release later this year!

Thanks for everyone’s understanding and support!


So you probably have noticed that I’ve been gone for a while from the blog. There is a very good reason for that: After much thought, I have decided to take on the large-scale challenge that Imperia has thrown in front of me. I’ll explain.

I have been working on Imperia for almost a year now (10 months) and it started out as a single project that I was using to learn how to program. I reached a point in my development where I realized that I actually had (or could learn) the skills needed to create the 5X game I’ve always wanted to play, which became Imperia. As I continued to work on it, I wanted feedback, so I posted the game to a few forums. Interest grew, and as the game went through version .2, then .3, and .4, more and more people jumped on, to the point where there are thousands of hits a week when I post new info.

With the addition of Pavlos and the creation of the awesome community, I had to at least consider what, if anything, I wanted to do with Imperia. Does it stay a hobby, or do I try to make it fly, follow my dream, and create the game I’ve always wanted – but with more resources?

After much thought, prayer, conversation, and trepidation, I’ve decided to jump into the icy pool: I will rebuild Imperia from the ground up and sell it.

What does this mean to you? First, I will release .414 shortly. It has a lot of bug fixes and is very playable at this point, if obviously incomplete. Future VB version releases of Imperia will always be free. I will continue to ‘noodle’ on the VB version of Imperia for ideas and to quickly test out certain parameters as I work though getting up to speed with my new development system.

Which is what, Steve? Well… glad you asked. I’m going all the way with Unity 5 and C# scripting. This change will allow many benefits:

  • Universal compatibility – there will be builds for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Resolution issues will be markedly reduced
  • The engine is more stable and much more supported at this point
  • Install dependencies are now much more integrated – one click install, with the flexibility of a full install program
  • Better memory management
  • Fonts won’t suck 😀
  • Vastly more potential to upgrade the UI – we are designing a ‘holistic’ UI where you never leave the galaxy map – you will ‘zoom’ into provinces (formerly sectors), systems, and planets – all on the same screen, but with different information. I’ve already mocked a prototype and it’s way more beautiful and flexible!

Those are the high points, and I am very excited about having the chance to correct and improve some things about the original Imperia, especially with the interface and some of the complexity of the planet economic system.

So for now, there is no MSRP, no Kickstarter, and no immediate early access plan. As I have said before, I have a lucrative full-time job and do not need to do this for the money. If we do move to some sort of crowdfunding, it will be small and used to pay for assets (music, Pavlos’ art, animation, etc). There is also the possibility of publishing though another company, though there is very little I can say about that at this time. Let’s just say for now there will be no call for your wallet. :)

If you are interested in being an actual alpha tester for KatHawk games (the DBA of my company), please let me know. A playable build is frankly 2-3 months off while I wrangle with the Unity system. I wish I had started with it from the beginning, but c’est la vie. There are some of you who have been with us since the beginning and I will personally reach out to you.

If you have any other questions, thoughts, etc. I would love your input, either here on the blog or at our forum. One thing we will be doing soon will be to update and unify the blog, the wiki, and the forum, and create a one-stop page with the usual things: news feed, media corner, development updates, etc.

I am very nervous about this decision, and I did not come to it lightly. I have no idea if Imperia will be as good as I want it to be at the end of the development cycle but I will say this. I’ve worked on this thing for almost a year, and I’ll work on it until it’s the best space strategy game I can possibly make, and if you want to join the ride, there’s plenty of room on the wagon – the journey’s just starting (again): hop aboard!


Hey everyone!

As I’ve said before, I try not to go too far off topic on this blog with the game, but on occasion I will use the soapbox that you have allowed me to climb to highlight things/people/sites that I think are noteworthy, whether they have anything to do with games or not.

Recently, I had a chance to interact with some fans of Imperia who wanted to do something about the (sorry) state of the forums, and help use their expertise to make the enterprise look more professional. As you probably know by now, Imperia is a hobby and I am currently making zero dollars by its creation; so everything I spend, even as little as server space for the forum, costs money. These guys offered to help because they think the game has serious potential and because it’s a game they want to play someday. After the forums went through their capable hands, well, things got real. 🙂 I never said I was a forum administrator!

Anyway, as I got to know them better, I took a look at their main project, YouthDebates.org. While I’m somewhat apolitical (mainly because the political atmosphere in my country is rather toxic and feels somewhat hopeless to change) I have to admire the energy and passion this organization has to look at politics from a ground level, to help contribute to campaigns all over the world, to talk about controversial subjects, and to learn more about the greatest game of all.. diplomacy and politics. There are forums and causes for just about all sides of the political and humanitarian spectrum on their site, and even if you are a clueless newbie who has no interest in politics whatsoever you might at least gain a perspective on this complex world and all of its interlocking pieces that you might not have had before.

While I am not endorsing any particular view or campaign on the site, I am very impressed by what’s being done there. If you have any interest in politics, or just making the world a better place, I encourage you to check their site out at  youthdebates.org. They are also an affiliate link on our main site at www.imperia5x.com.

It’s good to know, in this messed up world, some people are still trying to make a difference. Bravo.


Hey all!!

While 95% of this blog will still be devoted entirely to Imperia and its development, I want to from time to time get on my soapbox and talk about a few things that are gaming related in some way. This will hopefully allow 2 things: 1) for me to have a small voice about some things that are important to me and 2) for those who don’t know me at all other than as a developer of games to know me a little better.

I have 2 topics today. The first is viruses. Despite my best efforts to keep my computer clean, my computer got a virus. It wasn’t major, but it did get me thinking about what would happen if I lost all my work. I have spent almost a year working on Imperia, and I have some other projects as well that I have put time into, including a board game and another computer game, that I would hate to lose. Fortunately, I do have backups of my important stuff, but I had a few moments of terror last night as I thought I might literally have lost everything I’d worked on so hard. So going forward, believing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I will be creating an additional (off site) backup daily of my code and of the game’s artwork, as well as putting the code on a repository as a final backup. I can’t explain how it feels to think you might have lost something you worked so hard on and for, and I can only imagine it feels like losing a family member (well, maybe not that bad, but still…) So if this blog inspires one person to back up the things on their computer that are important to them, then I will feel that every keystroke today was worth it.

The second topic is I want to highlight blogs, people, and sites from time to time that I feel are worthy of your time, but aren’t ‘mainstream’.  The first one is (disclosure: Imperia has been featured on this site) a wonderful site called Space Game Junkie. It’s run by Brian Rubin, and this guy I truly believe has played virtually every game that has ever had the word ‘space’ in it. He is passionate about gaming, knowledgeable, and fair, and his site is a fantastic repository for games new and old. He has weekly streaming play sessions, vlogs, and guest LPs, among other things, as well as a news feed that is timely and relevant for people who love these kinds of games. I know that a lot of people who frequent this blog are also fans of space and space strategy games in general, so I recommend that if you’re not already aware of this blog, you check it out at your quickest pace! The site is:  http://www.spacegamejunkie.com . Check it out!

I do want to thank everyone who has checked out the first Imperia video. And yes, I will drop the music volume for the next edition… 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!