In Shadow Empire, the whole history of the world plays out before you even start a game

By Joe Robinson 23 Dec 2019 0

I’m not a huge fan of writing up dev diaries in place of actual news - we shouldn’t be doing all of a company’s PR for them, after all - but sometimes certain updates give pretty interesting insights into the shape of an upcoming game. Also, it’s just a really slow day.

Shadow Empire, a 4X/war game that’s been in the works for ages but was ‘formally’ announced back at the start of October, has just had its first official dev diary since then posted to the Matrix/Slitherine forums.

The full dev diary can be read through this link.

Shadow Empire Planets

The post talks in-depth about world generation, essentially. Each game of Shadow Empire takes place on a world that was once part of a Galactic Republic, but has since fallen into ruin after an apocalyptic civil war that lasted for over a century. This is a ‘post’ apocalyptic setting, but to first get to that game you have to define that apocalypse (to a degree), as well as the history of the planet in question.

Game generation goes through several phases - first the ‘Planetology’ step, where the planet’s basic type and geological potential is defined, as well as things like atmosphere etc… then the Geology itself is randomly generated. After that a ‘simulated’ Evolution step happens, simulating hundreds of millions of years of potential evolution based on the previous two steps. These three steps together form one third of the ‘setting’ for your game, defining what the planet will look like in terms of biomes, plus living conditions etc…

There’s then a ‘Colonisation’ step, which simulates a basic history of the planet from it’s initial colonisation by the Republic, right up to the start of the ‘Dissolution Wars’. This can give you stats like Population and the type of economy prevalent in the world. The ‘Apocalypse’ step then tries to play out what happened during the century long conflict, how it affected the planet/people and who survived at the end. This is the second third of the ‘setting’. 

At this point you’re almost ready to go, except there’s one final bit - you get to define the specific history and details of your faction through a short series of questions. Once that’s done, your game can begin in earnest. It’s worth pointing out that you can ‘re-roll’ the results of any individual step above if you don’t like what you get, plus there’s an option to skip it all and just get thrown into a game.

Shadow Empire Faction Creation

This is a cool piece of tech on its own - I could easily see it being turned into some kind of world generation tool for table-top RPGs, or even miniature-based wargaming. It’s an interesting choice for a 4X game. If you look at something like Civilization (and other games like it), so much of the premise is about you writing history as you play it. To front-load you with so much prior to the start of the game is an unusual move.

I wonder how relevant most of it will actually end up being. The environment always has a huge impact on how your game plays out, of course, although other games abstract the process a bit more than what Shadow Empire has done. I can see the rest of it being cool for a few games, but perhaps not being as interesting further down the line.

Still, it’s good to see something definitive on Shadow Empire, after so much silence. We're not sure when this game is due out. Late 2020 would be nice but these guys are also known for taking their time.

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