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Update, apology, explanations, and the rebirth of AotSS!

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 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!


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When designers turn human: An introspective look into crafting a dream

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 ( 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!




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.4 Update, New Screenshots, and a New Artist!

Hello everyone! It feels like it’s been a while since we last spoke, but we’ve been busy revamping the UI system from the ground up, as well as tightening the gameplay and design. We’re almost ready to send .4 out, and we hope to feature it on a podcast soon (Details forthcoming) but for now, we wanted to show some more screenshots, talk about how the UI is evolving, and introduce our newest artist, Ogi Schneider! Ogi has helped us with our UI/UX setup, and helped us corral this huge game into a friendly and accessible interface, the first results which we will be showing below!

Ogi’s bio:

My name is Ogi Schneider, I was born in Switzerland and live currently in London. After my interactive entertainment Diploma I went to Germany to a Stuttgart based 3D visualization company for an internship in 3D modeling/animation/rendering which led to a full-time position, helping with visualization- and game-/interactive-projects. We released two game titles, Tower Tapper (mobile only) and Steamscope (mac/mobile).

After 3 years in Germany I went back to Switzerland, doing freelance jobs regarding 3D and texturing for Apps and Games. Next to freelancing I was also involved in two indie game projects, Sky Mercenaries (Steam) and Steel Rain (Steam). In 2015 I got the chance to start a paid internship in London as Graphic Designer, which led to a fulltime job doing mostly UI/UX-Design and some print- and web-design.

In May 2016 I started freelancing again and found this great job opportunity to work on the Imperia UI- and UX-Design, which is what I am currently working on.

We are excited to showcase some of the new UI design in the .4 build and talk about some of the reasons for the sea change in design. Please note that while these are all in-game screenshots, there are a few missing icons here and there, and things will most likely change/tweak over the course of development. Let’s show some screenshots!

These are the first pass of the new 3D setup screens. We will add a third screen for the emperor setup (name, House name, colors, crests, portrait) in an upcoming build soon. The panels are 3D and move in real-space. It’s a cool effect!

Galaxy Screen 7.6.16

Here is the main screen, where you see all the new elements. The command bar is on the lower-left where you can change your command mode (economic, political, demographic, military) and an overview mode that would be the closest to a ‘traditional’ mode. On the right is your Project Bar, which will show all of your active Projects in the Empire and the available Projects for that level (province, system, planet mode). On the upper-right is your Empire stockpiles for energy and materials, used when you start a Project and for trade. The top center is your Emperor Status bar, which shows your remaining Action Points, your location, your Power rating, and your popular support. Finally, the upper-left shows the sub window buttons (Finance, Intel, Science, Emperor Diary, Overview/Stats) and your option menu.

System Screen 7.6.16

Zooming in, you see the new stars and some of the new planets. This shows the new Economic Planet bar that shows the basic economic information. Other modes will have the relevant information about each planet for that mode. You are able to access the viceroys from each planet from these bars as well.

Planet Base Screen 7.6.16

Here is the base Planet Screen – this is what you will see in each mode regardless of type. Your Chain of Command is always in the upper-left (you will see shortened versions of the COC on the system and province screens). This shows the tax revenue from the planet and who is getting how much. In the center is the viceroy window with a new chat log showing your conversation, and their basic info. The lower-center is the planet summary bar showing the high-level information about the planet. Keep in mind that we’re still tweaking what each panel shows and how much, but the look and feel is pretty much set.

Expanded Economic Mode 7.6.16

When you are in a submode, you will have a window bar on the left that shows individual panels that can be opened and closed independently. These windows stay with the mode, meaning that you can have 2 windows open in eco mode, 3 windows open in demographic mode, etc. and they will stay open with the mode when you switch modes, even between planets. In this way, players can create a workspace that works best for them – different combinations of panels can be used for different views when they work within that mode! This shot shows all of the Economic windows open, but they can be closed independently  as needed.

Updated Project Screen 1

Here is the in-game Project Screen. You first select a Project from the bar on the right, which opens up the window seen here. You then select an Administrator by dragging and dropping their charcter card into the box, which will unlock a number of contributor slots equal to the skill of the administrator. You then drag and drop contributors until you have enough financial contribution and ADM to finish the project in a realistic amount of time, You can find characters by scope (planet/system, etc), House, or filter (ADM > 0, wealth > 0) and sort within the pages to bring the highest values to the top.

Updated Project Screen 2

Here’s a Project that is ready to send, with an Admin and 2 contributors.

So we’re working now on the Character Screen. Not *quite* ready to show, but it will be ready to use and we’ll have a blog on that shortly. With the basic UI look and feel in place, we’ll be adding the rest of the modes shortly, along with the sub windows in the next .5 build!


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In the wake of Stellaris – we’re still plugging!

Hey everyone!

Well, we know what huge game just came out and hey, it’s Paradox and they make amazing games, so while everyone was out playing Stellaris (yes, we all got it as well, and played a LOT of it!) we are continuing to work on .4, otherwise known as The UI Release.

As you can see in the featured image, we’re revamping to the foundations, including fully-3D planets and stars that move, show rotating moons, and have their own light sources and show the amount of population and development on the planet! We’re also added a new artist to our stable, and he is doing incredible things for the UI design! You can see a preview of the ‘retro-futuristic’ look we’re going for above.

We’ve put a lot of time and effort into the command modes and the UI switches for each, revamped the galaxy view navigation, and worked on optimizing the system transitions.

We’ll be posting a more detailed blog about the redesign soon, along with a blog talking about the planets in Imperia – they are much more detailed beneath the surface then you might think!



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Building the plot structure

Hi all, Oliver here. This week I’m going to talk about how we’re putting together Imperia’s story structure – or, I should say, taking it apart and putting it back together again. I’ll refrain from giving away any plot details, so if you’re worried about spoilers, you can relax now.

Initially, the plan was to produce a story tree on which a single ‘cursor’ (in the programming sense) would progress from node to node, reacting to the gamestate, producing in-game effects and Twine-like interludes at each, until it hit an ending. And this structure I actually designed. Now this had a certain obvious inelegance – by the time you got to the bottom, there were four or five duplicates of most of the endings. But the real issue was that between any given adjacent pair of plot points you had to account for a whole pile of different potential circumstances: the gamestate might shift one of a whole pile of different ways, meaning each branch point needed to have a number of permitted outcomes. In practice, they couldn’t all have that many, producing a design which, while flexible, would in practice have come up with some weird situations.

This was all brought into focus when we introduced a couple of minor changes to the plot. Having read some really interesting and useful articles on plot structure (here and here, both well worth a read if you’re interested in interactive story design) I realised that what we needed was a ground-up restructure of the whole system. The result – which I’m in the process of setting out right now – is a system involving a number of parallel ‘blocks’ along which independent cursors progress and sometimes regress. Each block has several parallel versions, between which its cursor can move according to the gamestate – in particular, when certain characters have progressed along one or another of their potential character arcs, booleans will be flipped that shift several blocks from one version to another. The Twine-esque interludes and the in-game effects are still very much there, and are still triggered by the arrival of cursors at nodes, but rather than an enormous combinatorial explosion like we would face in an old-school Choose Your Own Adventure-style decision tree, the system allows unrelated chains of events to proceed in parallel without interfering with one another. If a character is not involved in a given part of the story, for example, Booleans relating to their character arc simply need not be considered.

This doesn’t just apply to separate, parallel storylines – not to give too much away, there aren’t many of those – but also to fixed points in the story that are only affected by one or two variables. I would give an example, but that would rather spoil the fun – I’d better stop writing before I give anything away.

Until next time,


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New .3 Overview Video Up!

Hey everyone!

Planned to get this up a little later in the week, but I was feeling frisky (and my recording software was cooperating) so here’s a short overview video of some of the main .3 features. Please keep in mind that most of .3 is under the hood, so while the ‘game world’ is more or less alive beyond character strategies and civilization AIs, the meat of the .4 update is showing this information to the player.

Shown in this video: The new trade system, the revamped main UI, the Command Mode system, and the foundations of the Project Bar and system.




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.3 has been released! Overview and plan for .4

UPDATE: The video showing the highlights of .3 visually is now up here:

Hey all!

With a new month comes a new update, and after several months of development, .3 is ready for internal testing! Since it’s a foundational update, much of the work was done behind the scenes, but here’s a partial list of the main additions:

  • Command Modes. Now you can work within a main command mode (Political, Military, Economic, Demographic) and all of your data, Project choices, and Actions will be filtered towards furthering that particular part of your strategy.
  • Project System added. Project Bar and Screen added, as well as filter for Command Mode
  • Trade System added, along with fleets, trade hubs, trade zones, and the concept of Importance with resources
  • Province generation revised to be more balanced
  • Manufacturing system balanced vastly downward in relation to the Trade system
  • Houses more fully implemented
  • House Banners functionality added
  • Holding concept implemented (the idea that Houses own planets, systems, etc. and gain tax from them)
  • Redesigned Main UI
  • Relationship States added and finalized
  • Emperor created (you!) as unique object in game
  • Cultures added and initialized among the galaxy within 3 ‘zones’ (Imperial Cultures/Inner Ring, Border Space Cultures/Second Ring, Outer Rim Cultures/Third Ring
  • GPP generation revised
  • Game rethreaded to allow turns to generate while the player is still interacting with the map (i.e. no ‘loading new turn pause screen’)
  • Trade Fleets added – they move on the map, show lines to their destination, etc
  • UI revised significantly for new Command Mode system, more to come
  • Political and Economic Galaxy Map filters added
  • Additional core Actions added

So that’s .3 – and I’m happy to say that it is pretty damn stable so far! So what’s coming for .4? Glad you asked! By June, Imperia should have the following:

  • Constellations
  • Updated System and Planet UIs
  • Military and Demographic Galaxy Filter Modes
  • Main Game Screen redesign
  • House Setup Screen/New Game Setup screen
  • Emperor Setup Screen
  • Power mechanic implemented
  • Complete work on Project creation and add Core Projects
  • Add core Actions for Characters
  • Add Religions
  • Add Options screen (save, load, etc)

There’s some other design work behind the scenes as well to prepare for future releases, but this is the stuff that you will see when you play. Very excited to release a new video in the next few days showing what we’ve done. As always, remember that we’re showing work that’s done way before a normal studio would – as we’ve always done, we’re showing people every step in the journey, and keep in mind that a ‘normal’ studio probably wouldn’t start showing work until about another 3-4 months in the process. Hopefully you like what we’re doing and we’ll keep doing it!



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So what’s Alliance of the Sacred Suns all about? And what’s with the 5th ‘X’? (UPDATED!)

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This blog has been significantly updated, to the point where I am considering posting it as a new blog since much has changed.


Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a 4X game where you have just reached your majority as an 18-year old trying to rebuild humanity’s old empire after a cataclysmic war forced humanity to move to a new quadrant of the galaxy. It is over 1000 years later and you are thrust into a position where, after a string of weak emperors, everyone from planetary viceroys, to system and sector governors, to scheming Primes (basically cabinet heads) is forward to taking advantage of your inexperienced and timid rule.

But you have no such intentions.

You were born with a strange ability: to read and change the minds and thoughts of others. As a leader, this ability is very valuable to determine who you can trust. Your goal is simple: to restore the Empire, to reclaim your standing as Emperor of Human Space, and – perhaps – to guide Mankind into a new and immortal era.

But there is another threat, looming beyond the light-years: the Xyl. Hybrid life forms that first appeared over Earth’s skies over a thousand years ago and forced humanity from their dying world after 2 bitter years of total war in the Exodus of 2033.

Nearly 400 years later, after humanity had found refuge in another corner of the Milky Way Galaxy – escaping through a star-gate of mysterious origin – the Xyl attacked again, and this war stretched out over 2 decades. Finally, humanity managed to introduce a nanovirus that appeared to stop the alien threat, but the ancestors of the year 3050 may have sealed humanity’s fate – just in slow motion.

In AotSS, you do not have unlimited power. Unlike virtually every other 4X game out there, you can not do anything at anytime. You have a small pool of Action Points that you spend to do basically anything, from planning empire-spanning Projects, to communicating with characters in the game, to meeting with your cabinets, to even going hunting. As you age, your pool will gradually increase, reflecting your increased familiarity with how to ‘make things work’ as an Emperor. Most importantly, the Action Point limit puts the kibosh on micromanagement, allowing us to simulate your empire in unprecendented depth without thereby forcing you to spend hours optimising every last trade fleet. Your choice of where to intervene becomes a matter of careful deliberation – the Emperor’s time is precious!

Project are another major difference from other 4X games. In Imperia, you might simply change a planet’s name by clicking the button, typing in the name, and that’s that. In reality, changing an entire planet’s name would have serious repercussions! So what you might have used to simply ‘do’ in other games now require Projects. Projects are massive undertakings that can only be done with stellar-level hardware and resources. Projects allow you to do things like reorganize sectors, change a system or sector capital, build or upgrade starbases, change what a planet produces, etc. Where this mechanic radically differs from most 4X games is that it is your Characters who actually enact the Project – they contribute a portion of their available administrative clout or ‘ADM’ (gained from their position as viceroy, system governor, etc) as well as providing the financial backing to enact the Project. Characters who back a large part of a Project will expect favors and prestige, therefore you must balance allowing Characters who stand against your Empire to grow more powerful, with how important the Project is to your long-term strategies. ADM represents all the planning, infrastructure, transport, ships, manpower, etc. to do planet-shaping things, and abstracts nicely the concept while eliminating micromanagement.

While your word as Emperor is law, there is no way to force how long an Project actually takes to plan, execute, and complete. And this is where the other major system of Imperia comes in – the character system.

Characters populate AotSS(much like Crusader Kings games) – they have their own stats, age, wealth, traits, and ambitions, like you or me. They can be manipulated to do what you want – if you’re cunning. You will often find yourself bribing or sweet talking a system governor who is holding up an important economic stimulus in their system, or perhaps calming down a sector governor who you just took away an entire system from to give to a closer sector, or promoting a loyal viceroy all the way to a sector governor who will be absolutely loyal to you – the character system in Imperia is a powerful and immersive aspect of managing your empire. Character stats are hidden from you until you reach a certain intel level (increased from interacting with them through Actions, or placing your dread Inquisitor squads in positions to gather information), and even then the number is a wide range until your intel increases sufficiently. This is a problem when a character’s love or fear of you is reported as 88 (out of 100) but it it actually a 41! The rule of thumb: Watch what characters actually do, not what they say. They also gain traits that affect their decisions and relationships with you as they age. They can die and retire, or be ‘retired’ by you – either by forcing them out of office or by more ‘direct’ measures. Don’t get caught!

The containers that are populated by Characters are called Houses. These are multi-generational organizations that have been around for centuries, and they often have their own Holdings of planets or systems. In fact, the Celestial Empire consists of the sum of the member House’s Holdings (most of which are held by the ruling House, yours). There are 3 sizes of Houses: Great Houses, which typically have Holdings, a personal military, and a vast amount of resources; Minor Houses, which are still formidiable but generally do not have Holdings, nor the great resource reserves that Great Houses enjoy, and Common Houses, which are all the ‘normal’ Houses that do not have a special history or any real power in the Empire.

Great House Leaders are, other than Primes, the most powerful and important characters in Imperia. Anger a Great House enough, and they may try to break away from the Empire – or to take it for themselves!

You yourself have a starring role as well through Influence. As you make choices through your rule, you will start to gain different types of Influence. Benevolent Influence is the ‘good’ Influence, which calls people to action for your Empire and the pride of humanity. Tyrannical Influence is the ‘evil’ Influence, which is used to threaten and intimidate characters into doing your will – but using it will have other repercussions. In addition, craven characters will gravitate to emperors who stray into Tyrannical decisions, and vice versa – you may have to make some tough choices about removing (or trying to!) governors who can’t stand your alignment!

The game is about less micro and more about making the large-scale decisions that shape an Empire. You will not be building 10 Science Labs to accelerate research; instead you will designate a planet as a Scholarly Conclave and try to install a viceroy that is aligned to the need for research, allowing that planet to grow organically – they will build Academies and attract academia themselves, with a few nudges along the way. You will not be building transports and endlessly clicking materials to go from planet to planet – instead, you will set up trade hubs that serve as collection centers and build starbases of appropriate sizes to move materials and food along from your Imperial capital to sector capitals to system capitals to normal colonies.

From an ‘explore’ standpoint, no longer do you have to build and design scout ships, set a destination, and micromanage exploration and colonization fleet. Would a real emperor do that? Projects cover just about everything you would want to do as an Emperor on a exploration level, from surveying new planets and unexplored systems to creating outposts to creating colonies. You just create a Project on an unexplored planet or system and your people will do the rest (eventually).

As mentioned earlier, planets are not micromanaged. They are very complex entities whose actions are governed in part by their population, the stats of the planet itself, its viceroy, and most importantly its Focus. All planets have at least one Focus – examples would be a farming world, a manufacturing center, a heavy military world, a scientific conclave, a prison planet, etc. Focuses basically shape how a planet will evolve. Depending on the size of the planet, up to 2 additional ‘secondary’ Focuses can also be assigned to more round out a planet’s development.

The population of your Empire will ultimately decide whether you live long and prosper (ha) or die at the business end of a pulser. Populations have their own unrest, age, type, job class, popular support, and needs. Each 1 million people are considered one ‘pop’ (similar to the Victoria system, but much more granular) and they can change jobs, age, die, have kids, migrate to other planets, or even leave your Empire altogether! They can also starve, grow angry, and revolt. They have their own cultures and House affiliation, and careful massaging of public opinion will be needed to ensure your vital Reforms pass without trouble.

And looming out there, making their presence known through your psychic abilities, are the Xyl. They have returned… but when? And will humanity be able to stand against them when their seeds have shattered across the quadrant?

You must pull together the Celestial Empire once more, research military and social technologies that will aid your efforts, unite your Houses against a common enemy, and prepare your subjects for war… a war that no one knows is coming… but you.

That is, if you’re not killed by your people first… in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, the 5th X is… eXist.

Good luck, Your Grace.

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Come Visit Our Community on the Imperia Forums, And Other Places Besides!

Hey everyone!

We’ve seen quite a bit of activity since we’ve started active development again, and we’d like to invite you to our forums if you want more ‘real-time’ updates and involvement! Our forums are located at and will be more active with our development schedule.

We’d love to hear your voices – you don’t have to register to read the forums, but part of what makes Imperia unique is we truly do listen to the players and that’s one reason we’ve been so open with the development! Plus, it’s a great way to get information in your hand more quickly if you don’t subscribe to this blog (another great idea, BTW!)

We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle @kathawkgames. We’re quite active on these platforms so any way you want, you can check out what we’re up to!

See you around!


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Developer Diary – UI and Command Modes

Hello everyone! Steve here with a small blog about one of the subtle, but important UI design choices: the concept of Command modes.

When we revamped the game design, we put a lot of thought into the UI. Imperia is a game with a lot of information, and we wanted a system where a player could get that information easily – but within the context of what they were working on.

If you play strategy games, you tend to think in terms of ‘what do I want to do?’ These tasks can be anything from ‘raise taxes’ to ‘build a fleet’ to ‘put a building in the queue on my capital planet’. But you are almost always doing these things within a larger context; in other words, you’re trying to accomplish a larger strategic goal by doing tactical things. So we thought, What will players do most? We settled on 4 broad areas that we felt most players would assign strategic value in Imperia: economic, military, diplomatic, and  demographic (pops), and created dedicated Command modes that focus player interaction on a particular area of strategy.

What this means in game terms is that if you select, say, Economic mode, then all map submodes, Actions, Projects, and data will be relevant to the economy of that view level, be it province, system, or planet.

So for example, if you are looking at a planet screen in Economic mode, you will see the taxes, production, trade to and from the planet, planet-level economic Projects in the Project bar, etc. If you move out of the planet screen, the system screen will have system trade, system-level economic Projects in the Project bar, and so on. Any submodes will be economic-related as well.

In essence, Command modes act as a smart filter so that you can act within the strategy you are pursuing without having to move ‘sideways’ in the UI. You can switch between command modes at any time, and for traditionalists there will be ‘override’ options that allows for Action- and Project-level filtering independent of the command mode (in other words, you can see all Projects for a planet even if you are in Military command mode) but we think most players will appreciate this setup once they start to play.

More to come soon, including some new screenshots!



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Introducing the Cultures of the Empire

Hi everyone! Oliver here. Today we’re going to be looking at the Culture system: what it is, what it means in gameplay terms, and a little introduction to some of the diverse cultures you’ll find among the heartworlds of your Empire.

One of the things we want to capture in Imperia is the sense that you’re bringing different ways of life together, in a cultural ferment, to renew the hidebound and crumbling Celestial Empire. To that end, rather than have different civilisations have different units, unique technologies, and so on, in Imperia the unique units and ‘technologies’ attach to different cultures, which you can integrate into your Empire. (I put ‘technologies’ in scare quotes because our Reforms system has some important differences from a normal technology tree – most significantly, it’s much broader than it is tall, enabling (indeed, forcing) you to customise your Empire rather than simply progress it along a linear track.) Once you have integrated a culture into your Empire, you can enact a number of special Reforms that build upon the interaction between the six core cultures of the Empire and the influence of the freshly-assimilated culture, as well as making Pops of that culture considerably happier under your rule.

Cultural integration isn’t simply a matter of joining hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah, however. In the 31st Century, the differences between cultures that have developed over many lifetimes in almost total isolation from one another can be stark indeed. To represent this, alongside the Religion system (on which more in a later blog post) we have the Ideas system. Every single character and Pop in the game will have a position on each of ten different Idea scales, including technophilia versus technophobia, unity versus divisibility and illusoriness of the self, authoritarianism versus anti-authoritarianism, and more, each representing a fundamental question about human nature and society in the future. The Idea positions of characters and pops will be derived from their culture’s default positions on the scales, and will affect their opinions of many of the moves you make in-game, from colonising new worlds, to passing Reforms, to crushing rebellions – and when you are considering who to ally with and which worlds to take into your growing Empire, you will have to consider whether the cultures you are looking to rule will look kindly or angrily upon the moves you wish to make after you’ve won. Not to mention that wars and migration may cause tensions between Pops of different cultures, creating difficult political situations to manage (or, if you are Machiavellian enough, take advantage of).

But Cultures are not immutable. Both you and other characters can ‘lean towards’ one foreign culture or another, to improve your relations with characters and Pops of that Culture, but also to affect the opinions of your supporters. Your cultural leaning will, of course, set the tone at Court (as Peter the Great’s Europhilia did in Russia) but your viceroys and governors will have political needs, preferences, and agendas of their own. It will take cunning and sagacity to manage the varying affiliations of your vassals – for shared tastes can create shared trust – shared trust, shared interests – and shared interests, shared plans…

The Core Imperial Cultures

The cultures in Imperia are divided into three groups, separated by space – one group at the centre of human space, another found arrayed around it, and a third, strangest and most unfamiliar of all, at its very fringes. Not all of the cultures will appear in every game – slightly more than half ought to show up on a normal-sized map – so each game you play should provide a unique cultural landscape to navigate. We’ll give you some glimpses of the weirder cultures in time, but today I’m going to restrict myself to summarising the history and character of the six core Imperial cultures – the cultures of your people at the beginning of the game.

Neomerican: The worlds described as ‘Neomerican’ are those most heavily influenced by the popular movement of the same name that took hold in the late 28th century. Against a largely small-t traditionalist background, this renaissance of ancient American culture (as filtered through a 28th-century Solarian worldview) infiltrated all areas of art, politics, and life. Notably, the publications of Neomerican public associations influenced writers and journalists far beyond the Neomerican Renaissance’s heartlands, leading to the foundation in the 29th century of The Solarian, by far the most widely-read news distributor in the Empire at the time of your accession to the throne.

Traditionalist: Of all the Empire’s many social orders, ‘Traditionalist’ society is the most conservative and the most oriented towards implementing Solarian social doctrines. Traditionalism as it is today grew up around the families who formed the first oligarchic aristocracy of the Terran Alliance. The obvious problem they faced in the early years was how to justify their accumulation of wealth in what – in those first, hopeful days of the Exodus – seemed like a new start for Humanity, a chance to start again. The calamitous arrival of the Solarian revolution gave them an answer: the majority of the aristocratic families were early converts, forming the funding base of the Solarian Stewardship Party and propagating the ‘Wahhabaptist’ movement. They used public displays of piety and maintenance of the new Solarian church and customs to validate their preëminent position in society. The heartlands of the new faith became the heartlands of what would be thought of as Traditionalist culture, and among the foremost duties of Traditionalist scions has always been the maintenance of the perception that their society represents the divinely-ordained order of things. Their outspoken confidence in the righteousness of the Imperial way of doing things often belies a creeping doubt and fear of slipping ‘into shadow’ off the true path – like those Techniks, Mercantilists, and ‘Gilded World’ sybarites…

Technik: The Technologists or ‘Techniks’ burst onto the scene in the 2850s as an intellectual movement calling for the revival of technological projects long held taboo by the Empire, beginning with the publication of Lucida Nevsky’s multimedia manifesto, Technology for Humanity, in 2851. It soon evolved into a more all-encompassing philosophy and way of life, as the technologies revived – including varieties of mind-machine interface and unusual prosthetics – lent themselves to transformative, sometimes quasi-spiritual experiences. Though many of their discoveries eventually became widespread, their transformative social effect was never so strong as in the Techniks’ heartworlds. To survive at the top of Technik society, their Houses take the rôle, more or less, of media and entertainment empires: by providing – or monopolising – the ‘peak’ experiences central to the Technik way of life, they sell their subjects on their rule.

Spartic: The Spartic movement is actually very old – it can trace its antecedents right back to veterans of the First Xyl War who, on arriving on the new world, resolved that society ought to be ordered in such a way that it could move to defend itself against an unknown threat at any moment. In this way, they are a reaction to the Exodus. They are a militaristic culture with strong focus on discipline and personal hardiness, and this idea of a disciplined social order is what maintains their leaders’ positions. All citizens participate in extensive national service and related training, from quite a young age. Cybernetic implants for battlefield purposes are common amongst all classes. They tend to have poor economic performance, but produces great troops and generals.

Gilded Worlds: The Gilded Worlds exemplify an alternative solution to the problem of how an élite can maintain its position over the very long term. Rather than pacifying their subjects with ideology, the great Houses of the Gilded Worlds go straight for the limbic system, maintaining chemical acquiescence through the judicious deployment of recreational narcotics, Soma-style. The leeway this lends the privileged in Gilded society leads them to notorious excess.

Mercantile: Somewhere between Venice at the height of its glory and England in its nascent days of empire: built on a revival of interstellar trade, this culture loves wealth and will work and even innovate to get it. Renewed interaction with previously-long-separated worlds makes this culture a little bit of a melting-pot. Its great Houses are trading powers – a mixture of old families who took advantage of the return of interstellar trade in the 2820s and 30s and new trading families who arose from that flowering. Prominent among them are the Ilioaias (a mining clan with a tragic past) and the Milaks (whose unexpected geological windfall propelled them to sudden glory in a few short months in 2915).

Join us again next week, when Steve will be taking the blogging reins once more!


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Developer Diary: Houses, Holdings, And You, Part I: How do they affect you?

Hey everyone! Steve here, with yet another new blog. We’re back to active development, so we look to have some screenshots soon but for now I wanted to talk about Houses: what they are, why we have them in the game, and how you can interact with them (and what can happen when things go bad).

So the entire structure of civilizations (including your Empire) are simply the sum of which Houses swear fealty to that particular civilization. What’s really happening is that there is always a ruling House (in the Empire, this is your House, with you as the head of House) and other Houses choose to swear fealty to that House, similar to the feudal system of yesteryear. All Houses have a head of House, their own treasury, their own crest and colors, and many Great and Minor Houses have a bespoke history as part of the Imperiaverse. Houses also have bonuses and specialties, and belong to a specific Culture group (which we will cover soon).

Holdings are simply what a House owns as part of the stellar landscape. Usually this means a planet, but if they have Holdings on a majority of the planets in a system, they are considered to Hold the system as well. This has implications for security in the system, as well as trade.

There are 3 broad sizes of Houses in Imperia. The largest and most impressive are Great Houses – they may have hand-crafted histories and special rules, they sometimes have Holdings of system size or larger, they may have their own military capability, and their leaders are often the most influential people in the game. There are 10 bespoke Great Houses that may appear in your Empire, though only around 5 are active at game start (selected randomly) while Great Houses in other civilizations are procedurally generated.

The second tier are Minor Houses. Within the Empire, these Houses are still bespoke, with a history and a base of operations, but do not have Holdings of any great size, usually no more than a single planet. Their leaders yearn for their House to rise to Great House status. There are 10 custom-made Minor Houses in the game, of which around 5 will be active in your Empire at game start, along with other, procedurally-generated Minor Houses.

The lowest and most common tier are Common Houses. These Houses are basically the ‘normal’ Houses of no great note, representing average families and House groups. There may be dozens of these Houses in the game. They do not have Holdings or military.

Houses are the entities that you are in conflict with throughout the game. As Emperor, you must work with the Great Houses to ensure that they support your Projects and Actions, and keep a close watch that they do not ally with each other in order to overthrow your House (and thus you). Your Inquisitors will be vital to stand watch over less-loyal Houses. It is important that you cultivate solid alliances with the Houses that you feel will benefit you the most. Due to ideology, it is impossible for you to ‘ally’ with all Houses – the other Houses are natural rivals, and acting in the best interests of one House will make other Houses jealous. Balancing your relations with the Houses is a critical part of your rule: do you more or less try to keep them neutral (‘a quiet dog is a safe dog’) or do you try to boost one or two Houses above the rest to gain their loyalty, but anger the rest of the Houses, especially those Houses’ sworn enemies? It’s up to you. You can also stop supporting Houses, but you might up angering everyone along the way.

To quickly pacify Houses, you have four powerful tools in your arsenal. The first is Projects. Proposing Projects that benefit a certain House will usually bump their Loyalty towards you and your House, depending on the benefit they will get.

The second is your administrative positions. You can assign a Character from a specific House to a viceroy position of a planet, a system or provincial governor, or even a Prime on your Council. The more power you give a character from a House, the happier and more loyal they will be, but obviously this will anger other Houses.

The third is more drastic, but has a huge impact – you can give a House a Holding of a planet, a system, or even a province (if it is yours to give). While this will delight Houses to no end, there are a few drawbacks. First of all, you no longer ‘own’ the Holding, so you can’t tax it or get supply from it as you did before. Second, you can’t get the Holding back by any means except force. In other words, if you decide you made a mistake in giving that system to a House that was threatening war, too bad – unless you decide to go to war yourself.

Which brings us to the fourth and final option: troops and guns. You can always use your military to destroy a House if you feel the need to do so. Keep in mind that this will raise your Fear rating to dizzying heights, and other Houses that are not cowed will actively plot to curb your power (unless the House that you took down was hated by all else, but even then self-preservation takes over). Repression – from military occupation to targeted kinetic strikes against their home planet – can keep your nobles in line, but such extreme measures will have repercussions…

Part II tomorrow!!