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Timothy Zahn's Parallax Turn Based 4X Strategy With Interview!

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Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate your way across a galaxy of Timothy Zahn's favorite aliens...and some of your own. I interviewed them on the project and here is the result!

Parallax is a 4X strategy game ("explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate") in keeping with the classic 4X genre, and heavily inspired by the feel and simplicity of the original Master of Orion. The player, as the leader of a fledgling interstellar civilization (AKA a "Faction"), will direct just about every aspect of their faction's development, including galactic exploration, expansion of the empire, exploitation of resources and technologies, and extermination of any competitors that refuse to join their empire.

They need a total of at least $350K and having just launched are on nearly $8K already

The Interview - With Abram from Prototype X Software, LLC!

You stated the game will be on Windows and Linux with post-release porting as quick as possible, so it won't be a simultaneous launch? What is holding you back from doing them both together?

QuoteNothing, actually, except perhaps a better mastery of grammar...  The actual coding is going to be done on a Windows 7 box, but I'll be writing against Xamarin's Mono libraries, so I'll (basically) just do a cross-compile to generate the Linux version for the Alphas and Betas.  The post-release porting will be for other platforms, such as Andriod, iOS and Windows 8.

What is your teams experience with Linux and what are your thoughts about Linux as a desktop operating system?

QuoteNot sure about the rest of the team, but my experience is fairly limited - I've done some C++ development for systems that ran on Linux, but I've always pretty much been a Microsoft dev, and it's been years since I've actually been on a Linux box...  I will be setting one up to test Parallax on, though, so apparently I have about 4.7 years' worth of installing and tweaking to do.

Master of Orion (1 & 2 at least, 3 was a divebomb) are pretty big games in the 4X genre to live up to, how will you be differentiating yourself from those games

QuoteI like MOO, but I'm not really a fan of MOO2, because it was already starting to slip into micromanagement too much. (Unhappy, starving citizens? Why am I getting bugged about that, when my minions should be taking care of it...  I've got a galaxy to conquer, dammit!)
I actually do want to keep the gameplay pretty close to the original MOO, and just weave in some more under-the-hood complexity that gives the player more options/ richer gameplay, without feeling like extra work, such as:

    different factions sharing a solar system, or even living on different parts of a single planet
    secondary menus for special actions during space and ground combat, and multi-faction combat (so you can have 3 or 4 different factions fighting over a planet
    advisors prompting the player to take action when something's happening, instead of having to do the (usually mid-game) grind of checking on all of your planets and watching for attacking fleets/ invasions
    minor "realistic" details, like taking spaceship hull designs and giving them pre-defined space allocations, or limiting the choices available during diplomatic talks, so the player has to work within the limits of the race they're playing and the choices they make (even though the limits are going to be pretty broad), rather than being able to pick any race and just get different in-game bonuses or penalties.  Or, for the diplomacy example, if they declare war, they might not be able to change their mind the next turn and toss a bunch of gifts at the other faction and ask for a peace treaty

Do you plan to include things such as random encounters? Like "oh no big space worm is tearing through x system"?

QuoteYes, definitely.  I had a pledge level just for that in the previous Kickstarter, but decided to just make it part of the overall development process instead, so I'll throw out a question to the backer community now and then, they'll offer suggestions, we'll all vote on the ideas, and we'll add in the winning ideas.  There will probably be at least a few that we create for a specific purpose too: either as part of a bigger story/ event, or to get the player used to innocuous-seeming events, so we can actually surprise them with the big twists.

What sales platforms will it be available on? Steam, Desura, IndieGameStand for examples?

QuoteI want to keep it as free-standing as possible, so it can show up on a site like Abandonia 20 or 30 years from now and still be playable (with an emulator, I'm guessing).  To that end, I'm planning simple downloads for the initial release, since both Win 7 and Linux are "unlocked" platforms, and I will probably wrap it up so that it can be distributed on the other services either post-release or right before.  But having that up-to-date, directly-installable version is kinda important to me.

In Parallax how would you actually win the game? Every 4X does the end-game quite differently.

QuoteAccording to the current plan, you win when you control/ unify the galaxy, and there are a few different ways to attain the goal - galactic subjugation, galactic peace, annihilation of every other space-faring species, and stuff like that.  Plus maybe a couple of other special ones that aren't ususally available.

Why did you decide on using Mono for your game?

QuoteI'm very much a Microsoft developer at heart - MFC, WPF, C#, LINQ, XNA and a bunch of their other stuff just "makes sense" to me, and is super-easy to work with, so it's simply a matter of me going with my strengths.
It actually kinda ironic that Microsoft seems intent on not supporting XNA moving forward: to them, XNA is a "last-gen" technology and they're leaning more toward HTML5 and C++, but Xamarin - a bunch of Linux devs, from what I understand - took 2 of their ideas (XNA and C#/ Mono), successfully commercialized it, and are now offering a framework that allows you to cross-compile to a bunch of different platforms.

How big will the universe be to play in?

QuoteTo an extent, that's going to be up to the players, since there's going to be a "Galaxy Size" setting.  We'e going to fine tune the actual number during the play-testing, but my guess would be that the largest galaxy might only be a hundred stars or so.  There are going to be multiple planets per star, so it's a little bigger than it sounds, but it needs to stay small enough that the players aren't going to get buried by data.
Again, it's a guess, since the advisor prompts might help streamline the gameplay enough that we can allow larger galaxies, and still prevent players from getting bored/ annoyed.

What are you planning for the game post-release wise?

QuotePrimarily, I expect it to be more content, and maybe a few pieces of extra functionality, but a lot of it is going to be driven by what the players ask for down the line...  In my experience, trying to predict user/ player desire too far in advance is pretty much impossible, so I'm not going to try - I'm going to make sure the architecture supports extensibility and dynamic content wherever possible (again, going with what I know), and then add features that seem like good fits/ extensions to the game.
That, being said, there are going to be a lot of ideas that the backers come up with that we just won't have time to refine, and that won't make it into the initial release, so putting out more content will be pretty important to me.  Speaking strictly for myself, and just kinda thinking out loud, it'd be really cool if we could get permission from some other authors to include their aliens at some point...

Do you think 4X strategy games have died out for a reason? You don't see too many of them.

QuoteI think part of that is just the sheer number of titles out there nowadays, and that many of them are real-tim instead of turn-based, but there are quite a few 4X games out there right now: off the top of my head there's stuff like XCom: Enemy Unknown and Halo Wars, as well as smaller-budget games like Starbase Orion (MOO2-style, and only for iDevices at the moment, but it seems like a good game, that's evolved into a great game, despite both of those flaws :D).

Big thanks to Abram for having a chat with me and not getting to bored answering my questions, this game is a must for turn based strategy fans and I hope it does well.

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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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Lord Avallon 23 Oct, 2013
The concept is interesting, but I would like to see some gameplay footage as soon as possible.
Speedster 25 Oct, 2013
Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite authors, and I think the community collaboration could be so much fun with the right set of backers. Hope to see more of you over there -- Linux fans are good at online collaboration!
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