Who are the Solar Wardens?
“According to conspiracy theorists, Solar Warden is an ultra-secret project that maintains a fleet of spaceships that are operating primarily within Earth’s Orbit and around our solar system. Some say they’re defending us against alien threats.
Solar Warden is a Six-Degrees-of-Freedom space shooter combined with an overarching campaign with real time strategy elements – jump into your fighter and combat the silicoid menace up close, while you command and dispatch the Solar Warden fleet for reinforcements as you see fit.”
I’m psyched I got talk with Dan “Kamikaze” Adams about this game because, well, for one it’s a game I’d like to play and could see myself getting absorbed into just the management and diplomacy system even if that’s all the game was. It’s not though! It’s also a ship building, dog-fighting style alien ass-kicker! For me, when all those elements come together you’ve got the foundation for a great game. Polar Zenith (The indie development studio responsible for Solar Wardens) started with a good foundation and just kept building on it.
What did they build? Well, I’ll turn to Kamikaze for the answers to that!
Let’s start with the concept for this game. Where did it come from and how much has it deviated from the original concept in what we’re seeing now?
The original concept I had was out of a love of both XCOM and Freelancer titles where I brainstormed some ideas with old developers from MechWarrior: Living Legends (MWLL). From those days, we loved what we did with the Aerospace and I always wanted to make an MWLL map that was primarily focused around space combat, but I never got the chance to do that. Still, having the aerospace as the reference, I knew that one day that I would look at remaking something like this on my own but it would have to be my own Intellectual Property. This allowed me to come up with the proverbial “Asteroids” but on steroids game.
It really wasn’t supposed to be more than a simple space shooter about defending the planet against asteroids with only a handful of different ships. But now with the whole RTS element and all the extra ships and XCOM style management, it’s grown into something much bigger than the original concept. Now with all of the fiction lined up for the campaign, I’m excited to take Solar Warden much further than what was just supposed to be a “small project” to step into Indie Development.
What was the inspiration that started you working on it?
The inspiration for the gameplay as stated before was very much focused on the core combat behind Freelancer and a bit of X-wing as well as Descent. I was always a huge fan of the 90’s and early 2000’s space games. But I also loved both the new and old XCOM series and found that plugging in elements of the planetary strategy into Solar Warden really worked, I felt I had something really awesome in the works.
The name of Solar Warden came to me after already 9 months working on the project where one of my guilty pleasures is reading up and watching conspiracy theories surrounding Aliens and other sci-fi related stories. What I found was a whole conspiracy talking about a what people claim to be one of the secret space programs called “Solar Warden”. Apparently they are a space fleet that operates in and around our solar system supposedly defending us against alien threats and performing other black project programs in space with other alien species. I thought that was too perfect and adopted the name for the game while tweaking some of the fiction to be a bit more grounded rather than the pretty insane stories you might hear.
I’ve always been curious with games set in the future if the date chosen has any meaning. You chose 2070. Is there a reason behind that?
I needed a date that was far enough into the future, but not too far, to where mankind could be seen to be nearing some really cool technological breakthroughs when it comes to advanced space technologies. However not too far where it’s beyond some modern times since this is framing how humans take their first steps into the rest of the solar system. I also wanted to get a small distance away from the current political climate since country relations and diplomacy is important to economy of the game. Getting away from current day allows me to make up names of future Presidents or leaders of countries and the ambassadors the Solar Warden project will need to deal with.
What is one early memory of a game that made you go “Wow, that’s something I’d like to do”?
I think this would be when I was crunching my ass off working for AAA studios that I felt lacked a cohesive vision and I always felt helpless in the fact I knew that many of the games I worked on were doomed since there was a huge disconnect between the directors I worked with and audience they were failing to deliver to. I was nearing the point of being burned out on games. However, this was also where I had a realization. I saw that so many hugely successful Indie games were being made recently were made up of teams of 1 to 5 people. And after the success I had with MWLL I had that moment of “Wow, I should look at doing this myself!” This is when I decided to leave AAA and build my first Indie title.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the oil city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Which is also where my professional game development career started with Bioware, working as QA on Mass Effect 1.
What were your childhood interests?
I loved Legos and later tabletop games and playing video games when I was a kid. I usually was the dungeon master and made up a lot of rules that went beyond D&D and the original Heroquest rules, so even as a kid I was already making my own games. My dad got my siblings and I a family computer in the 90s where we started playing those early PC titles. I guess these were the two major factors when it came to forging my career path.
Have you always wanted to make games?
In a way, yes. Like what I said with my childhood, I always had fun with making up games with friends, but I never thought of it as a job or anything I could do full time and make money from it. It was really during Highschool where I kinda figured out where my life was going when I was given an opportunity to create a “Workplace Safety module” from Bioware’s Aurora engine (Never Winter Nights at the time). To make a game about workplace safety in a game engine I was already playing around with in my free time and actually get paid for doing it? Yes please!
Did you go to school for what you’re doing and/or how did you learn to do what you do?
I was completely 100% self taught. As mentioned before, I worked on the Never Winter Nights Workplace Safety Module, but before that I was dabbling in the Aurora Engine in hopes of creating an expansive large world fantasy game just for fun. This drove me to learn LUA and other scripting languages and basically become an early Technical and Game Designer. Later, my brother who I played many online games with, approached me and showed me a fun prototype of a Jump Jetting Battlefield 2142 mech and asked if I wanted to work with him to make a new MechWarrior game with him since MechWarrior 4 was already 5 years old at the time. I agreed, and we went from there teaching ourselves how to make 3D models, how to animate them, and also later, how to import them into the CryEngine to finally make the mixed arms, multiplayer, award winning, total conversion mod for Crysis – MechWarrior: Living Legends.
How did you get your nickname?
I originally got the name from a wingman who I met online when I first played Freespace 1 with. He told me I flew so crazy like that I “[flew] like a Kamikaze pilot with a death wish”. I’m not sure if much has changed about my tactics and since I also has an affinity toward Japanese history, the name stuck with me.
There are several different aspects of Solar Warden including fleet management, setting up defenses, dog-fighting style combat, upgrades, custom load-outs, diplomacy, co-op play and more. I want to ask you some specifics of the different aspects of game-play:
You recently posted a development blog on the P.D.I. (Planetary Defense Interface). The AI governing that must be pretty complex. Can you tell us a bit about how the AI handles your fleets and squads?
Actually, the AI are pretty simple. I try to stay away from complicated AI statemachines and goal pipes as they can easily get bloated and act really dumb if not optimized (not to mention performance heavy). Basically, I have the AI setup run a “patrol” in a defined area, checking every 4 seconds or so if there’s a new target while choosing a random direction to travel (or stay on a patrol path). Then if they find something, they fly toward it and attack (changing course if they get “too close”). If that target dies, or there’s a “bigger threat” they change targets and repeat. The only time this loop breaks is if there’s a new “Fleet order” for the group to do something specific which overrides their patrol or “Hold Position” order. Keeping the AI this way is simple and effective and also allows for more specific command control over them if you wish to give them specific orders. Especially in large battles.
Is it better to personally join in the fights instead of letting the AI handle it all?
That entirely depends on the situation. You might find a common meteor cluster that can easily be handled by your AI to take care of the situation since they are well enough equipped, but if they are out gunned or outmatched, it might be time to intervene as losing Ships in your fleet will feel like a heavy loss (due to their cost and build times). Further to this, we recently demoed off a new feature we call “Telepresence” which is a research upgrade within the game that allows you to take control on ships at will (as long as they are within communication range of your satellites). This allows you jump right into combat right there and take charge of the situation yourself. You can see this in action in our live stream with Shivaxi here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U95TuP8dFA
Over time do the options for commands on the fleet management tab change as you customize your fleet or do research?
Yes, definitely. You can think of these commands similar to that of other RTS titles where certain classes of characters will have special skills. However, in Solar Warden, you can customize these ships to equip special devices that you can command them to activate. Including but not limited to – Deploying Satellites, Cloaking Devices, Wormholes, Death blossom maneuver (The Last Starfighter reference), and many more.
Can you tell us more about the role diplomacy will play in the game?
Diplomacy can be viewed by how well you are keeping countries happy with their demands of you and how you’re defending the planet. You can see how good of a standing you are by viewing your relationship meter from the “Funding” menu in the P.D.I. This will show you how amicable they are toward you and the likelihood of them offering missions or “Contracts” for you to perform for them. These contracts can range from general destroying incoming asteroids that threaten cities for that country, to other things like capturing and mining asteroids, or building objectives like a late game space elevator for that country. Every contract completed for that country will likely have drawbacks by other countries not liking that you’re completely a contract for an opposing country. This will have impacts on both your monthly funding from these countries as well as limit your research options as well, like for instance losing out on Laser technology from Japan or Reinforced Armor Plating from Russia. Defending the planet 100% is an impossibility and you will have to make difficult decisions before the end of the game.
What would you say is the most interesting aspect of the game?
Telepresence since you can assume control of your ships at will changing the game-play from RTS to Space shooter within an instant. And also the Diplomacy, which will really affect the meta-game. I really want no two play through of the campaign to play out the same and allow for tons of replay-ability.
It’s apparent that this game is a huge undertaking. Do you use any specific methods to evaluate progress at different stages of development?
We’re currently using a few different project management software to track our progress as we crank out tasks and complete them. But really, that’s more of a tool to gauge the work being done. The best method to actually “evaluate” the game is by play testing it. It’s not a game unless it’s fun to play. We had leaps in success when we first included basic multiplayer and then the Corvettes, and then also the P.D.I. Fleet management and then most recently was the Telepresence which really helped tie everything together. Each one of those felt like a mini milestone for the team and really helped everyone visualize what the end product will be.
What would be a single piece of important advice for other indie developers?
Just Do It! I know it’s meme, but it’s a truth that I kinda learned by accident. I didn’t know how to do any sort of 3D modeling or any sort of scripting until I just did it. Learn by example, but make your own stuff as you go! You might suck at it at first, but don’t let that stop you. Just do it, and with more and more practice and completed works under your belt you will learn how to become better and better at it.
You have a campaign coming to kickstarter soon. Do have an estimated date for starting that?
We’re estimating our launch to be near the ending of March.
Do you have plans to release a demo anytime soon?
I can’t say specifically, but if you sign up to our Newsletter (https://solarwardengame.com/newsletter/ ) you will be among the first to know when it’s coming out.
There’s so many more questions I could ask but for now, is there anything I missed that you’d like us to know?
Even with the previous projects like MWLL, we are still a small development group of 4 people and a handful of freelancers, but we can’t make this game on our own. We need your support in helping us make this game become a reality! Sign up for our newsletter and join our Discord (https://discord.gg/MaGzwt4 ) today so we may count on your support when we go live to Kickstarter! We’ll see you there, Warden.
Yup! I don’t really know what else to say, other than thank you! Thank you for answering our questions and giving us a behind the scenes look at Solar Warden! I can’t wait!
Visit their website here! https://solarwardengame.com/about/
You should keep up to date with the progress of Solar Warden. Read the devlogs to know what’s coming, or when the kickstarter launches, and you can chat with the indie game team yourself at their discord! Use any of the links below to #watchtheskies!
Also please comment and share so I can keep bring you behind the scenes looks at really great games! Thanks for reading!