Pre-Release Interview With Aaron Hall

The Orion Sector was recently able to conduct an interview with the lead designer of Space Empires 5, Aaron Hall. What we found out about the game has significantly increased our anticipation of the game. We hope you find it as interesting as we did.

1) The UI for the game has obviously gone through some significant changes. How hard was it for you to adapt at first? How quickly do you think a veteran of SE IV would adapt?

[Aaron] - It was a bit of a process, but we knew it had to be done. After SE4, we knew that the next SE game would need to use Direct3D, as all other strategy games were. So we came up with a plan to get us to where we needed to be. We created 2 interim games to develop the technology needed. We created Dungeon Odyssey to develop our DirectX technology. Then we created Starfury to develop our Direct3D and modeling technology. After those two, we were more than ready for SE5.

One of the complaints from SE4, was that it was "spreadsheets in space". We wanted to update the UI and add a bit more eye-candy, while still keeping the needed lists. SE4 veterans will have no problem adapting as many of the windows are similar to their SE4 counterpart.

2) How do the new government setup options and other new race setup options affect your strategies?

[Aaron] - The government, society, and racial traits allow you to customize your empire in game to your particular play style. If you don't like dealing with population happiness, you can pick a government and society where that is less of a concern. If your play style is one where research plays a big part, you pick a society of Researchers who get more of a bonus from that endeavor. And like SE4, there are racial traits that open whole new technology areas for you to use like Organic, Crystalline, Temporal, etc.

3) Does the system grid being in hexes instead of squares make a significant difference in how you play the game? What is the most significant impact from that?

[Aaron] - Its actually not much of a difference. Ships still move from hex to hex like they did in SE4 from square to square. One effect it does have is to make the solar system much larger than it was in SE4. And there is no longer the "cheat" of diagonal square movement being faster than other square movement. Hexes make everything even.

4) Can you describe some about how the new ship design system works? How significantly does where you place a component affect the performance of the ship?

[Aaron] - The new ship design system is something we got a lot of requests for from SE4. You can now place your components onto a layout of your ship. There are three sections to a ship, the armor, outer hull, and inner hull. Damage first goes through the armor section, then the outer hull, then the inner hull. So components places in the Inner Hull are the most protected of your components and will usually damage last. Also, damage is directional and your components will be damaged on the side the ship is hit by weapons fire. So you need to design your ship with regards to how you like to fight with your ships. If you like frontal assaults, then put more protection in the front of your ship.

5) How does the Multiplayer compare with SE IV?

[Aaron] - Multiplayer is very similar to that of SE4. We kept in all of the same modes. You can play turn-based or simultaneous turn movement. You can move the files manually, over a LAN, or via TCP/IP.

6) What is your favorite new tech area? How does the tech tree (and its organization) compare with SE IV?

[Aaron] - That's a very hard choice. Probably the new favorite is Multi-Dimensional Awareness that is provided by a racial trait. The new tech tree is similar to the one in SE4 so that players wouldn't be totally lost. But a new feature of SE5 is our "infinite tech tree". Now it's not actually infinite, but each tech area goes on for about 100 tech levels. We have over 6,000 tech levels in SE5 which will last players for quite a while.

7) Can you describe a bit what it's like to be a part of a beta test like this? What do you think would be the biggest surprise for a person whose never had that opportunity before?

[Aaron] - I think our beta test is pretty standard. We produce a new version every week for the testers, and they post bug reports in a forum. The biggest surprise for a beta tester would probably be how much influence they have over the game. We've already had a list created with beta testers submitting the new features they would most like to see added to the game. All of the testers then voted on each one, and the top 20 items will almost certainly make it into the game.

8) In short, what are your three favorite things about SE V (whether new or improved or just the same as before)?

[Aaron] - My personal 3 favorite things are:

1. 3D system view - You now get to see the solar system in a realistic fashion with big stars, nebulae, black holes, etc. It's quite beautiful.

2. 3D space combat - You get to see your ships in huge space battles in glorious 3D. It's quite a thing to see your ships opening fire on a base and lighting it up with explosions.

3. Scripted AI - We added a scripting system to SE5 so that players can actually write their own AI or modify the ones we created. We can't wait to see what players come up with!

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