Monday, December 19, 2016

Ongoing Alpha Test - Update #2 Release Notes

Today we are releasing the second update to our ongoing alpha version. Before going into specifics, I'd like to offer an update on our release plan:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ongoing Alpha Test - Update #1 Release Notes

If you've been participating in our open alpha test, thank you! It's been a very exciting start, with amazing feedback, great discussions, and lots of bugs. We are happy quite a few players have seen promise in this very early version of the game, and we'll do what we can to deliver on that promise.

We see Hades' Star not as a monolithic game that we develop, "finish" and launch, but as a living game that will evolve and (hopefully) improve significantly over the years. We will be delivering constant updates based on feedback we get from the community and our own plans to evolve the game. We want to be transparent with these updates, by explaining why we did the changes we did, and perhaps in some cases why we didn't implement popular requests.

Today we are delivering our first update to the live alpha test. Here's the list of things that are changing in the update, and the motivation for the changes:

Yellow Stars

  • Significantly reduced prices for additional short range scanners 
  • Reduced prices for revealing sectors that are 2 cells away from the starting sector
  • Motivation: Progression in the home yellow star hits a solid wall very early, so this should help speed things up during the first couple weeks in game. More tweaks will be coming in future updates.

Red Stars

  • Red Star Search now costs Hydrogen. Free searches were encouraging people to abandon the star to search for a better one, which hurts other participants. We want to encourage players to send their Miners to Red Stars to get more Hydrogen than is available in their home system. We also want to encourage installing Miner modules that help with mining faster in Red Stars.  
  • Artifacts now give 2x-2.5x more Credit reward
  • Artifact research times are reduced to 2 hours for smaller artifacts
  • We agree with feedback that Red Stars are still unbalanced and repetitive. We are completely reworking how they are generated, but the results of that rework will take a while. In the meantime we have reduced the number of Cerberus ships on red stars, until that rework is done.


  • Battery lv1 increased damage per second to 10 (for 9), to make the upgrade from weak battery more enticing
  • Mining modules reduced Hydrogen usage drastically. We don't want players to be restricted from going to mine in long distances or in Red Stars. 
  • Most other modules also reduced their Hydrogen usage, to account for imbalances and the fact that Red Star Searches now require Hydrogen
  • Expect big changes still in the Hydrogen economy overall, as we do balancing passes in future updates


  • Price of battleship greatly reduced (from 2000 to 500). We want to make it cheaper to experiment with base battleships, especially at the beginning of the game where it's very likely to lose a lot of ships while figuring out combat mechanics. Some of the base cost will move to modules in a future update, so it will stil be expensive to lose upgraded battleships.
  • Cerberus ships have been made weaker. Level 2 Cerberus carries Battery Lv2 (instead of Laser lv2). Cerberus hitpoints have been reduced. This is part of an ongoing effort to make early game easier. 

Improvements and bug fixes

  • You can now see information of the star you are visiting on the top left of the HUD, including the owner player's name (yellow stars) and the supernova timer (red stars)
  • When docked to a research station, a transport will transfer its artifact immediately when a slot becomes available. No longer need to send the transport to another destination and back again.
  • Added missing confirm button before spending Crystals, when installing or upgrading modules
  • Hydrogen Collector achievement should now be working
  • Removed "upgrade" button from short range scanner. Those buildings cannot be upgraded.

Known issues

  • Existing Cerberus ships won't change their hitpoints and weapon type to reflect the new weaker values.

As always, all feedback is very welcome.

Thank you for playing!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Our design philosophy

On a previous post, we presented the game's design pillars. Those are the immutable goals for the experience we want to offer with Hades Star. To sum up, we want to create a game that has players growing an empire over time; exploring interesting parts of space; making meaningful interactions with other players, and becoming involved in exciting strategic decisions.

The design pillars are quite high level and don't by themselves give much information on how we'll approach specific design questions. This post is an attempt to share additional information. By giving some background on our design approach, including our personal preferences and biases, we hope to add context in how we work and share insight on why the game is the way it is.

This design philosophy may evolve over time, and it will affect not only the initial version of the game, but also the new features we add through ongoing updates. Any new proposed feature, including features suggested by our players, will always be evaluated against the design principle discussed here (in addition to the design pillars). We are hoping that by sharing our design philosophy and pre-existing biases early we can help all players understand why we choose some features over others and drive meaningful discussion.

As always, all feedback on any of this is very welcome.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Stars of the Hades Galaxy: Red Stars

In a previous post we described the yellow star: A player's main base of operations. Yellow stars last forever and are bound to a specific player. That player has the option to fully explore the star over time, build infrastructure, and optionally allow access and establish trade, mining and military relations with other players.

Red Stars are very different. They do not belong to any player. Only a small amount of players have time limited access to a given Red Star (we're thinking 3-8 players depending on the star's level, likely to be tweaked). The star's lifetime is very small - probably much smaller than a day (exact amount to be determined from playtesting). After the time limit expires, Red Stars go Supernova, destroying any objects near them, including any ships the players may have left there.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Stars of the Hades Galaxy: Yellow Stars

Note: This post describes features under development which may change or get cut. The usual disclaimers apply

Hades' Star is a game about a mysterious, distant galaxy. Players join with the goal of exploring this galaxy and growing their empire, while also interacting with other players. There are many kinds of interactions we want to experiment with, especially between groups of human players. Breaking down the galaxy in stars of different types is a way to allow such different interactions. Each different star type a player will encounter has different rules. Some stars might encourage single player exploration, some might encourage co-operation between players to achieve specific goals, and some might allow players to fight other players. Initially the game will offer a small number of star types,  but we plan to implement more via regular updates. Player feedback will be one of the factors that guide what new star types we will implement, and when. 

This initial post on stars presents the Yellow Star: the most common type that all players immediately have access to.

Yellow star: Single player progression with optional cooperation with other players

Yellow stars are abundant, found mostly in the outskirts of the galaxy. Every time a new player joins the game, they are assigned their own unique Yellow star system. Yellow stars contain multiple habitable planets, and are a great opportunity to set up a stable base of operations to help fund further expeditions deeper into the galaxy.

Initially most of the yellow star system is unexplored, giving its owner player the goal of fully exploring it and expanding to it during the next weeks or months. 

As with all other star systems, we want to offer a seamless sense of scale: The game allows quickly transitioning from a full zoomed out, strategic view...

...all the way down to individual planets the player may have colonized.  

Even though Hades' Star is a massively multiplayer game, we still want to allow players to interact with other people at their own pace. We want to avoid forced interactions, especially interactions with strangers which often feel very hostile initially, regardless of the designer's intentions. 

The yellow star allows us to accomplish that. Each yellow star is owned by a human player. That owner has full control over what other players (if any) can access that system, and when. After a few days of getting their bearings in the system and setting up initial infrastructure, players will have the option to construct a space station that can be linked to another player's yellow star. This optional linking will create a two way star gate that allows each player to send a limited number of ships to the other system, with the intention of helping the other player achieve their goals in their star. It is mainly expected that people who know and trust each other (perhaps friends from other online games or in real life) will establish this link. 

If a player chooses not to link their yellow star to other player(s) in this way, then their yellow star will basically behave like a single player game. They will still need to work over the next weeks to unlock new sectors, build fleets and infrastructure, and push back the AI race of hostile ships that also has a presence in their system. Our goal is to also make that single player experience interesting. Even though the game will always be an online experience meant to promote meaningful interactions between players, the yellow star can optionally become a player's own little corner of the galaxy that they can manage any way they want without outside intervention.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A disclaimer: Talking about features under development

The purpose of this blog is to share some of the development of Hades' Star with future players of the game. My hope is that openly sharing this information can help everyone see early on whether the game is for them, and to solicit important feedback that can further guide development.

As is always the case, features under development can change substantially or get cancelled. This is a normal and expected part of development: Very often, things that sound great on paper break down when they are play tested. It's also especially true in online games, where getting the best out of a feature relies on human players not deviating too much from a specific range of behaviors. Human players have the habit of surprising naive designers like me who think they can design human behavior on paper. In practice, I believe any non trivial feature that relies on human interaction in a massively online game has to be playtested with a good number of players before it's called done.

For these reasons, sharing features under development with players is risky. It's easy to be misunderstood and be accused of promising things that are never delivered. It's a risk we are willing to take in order to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with our players. When features do change and are cancelled, we'll do our best to explain why.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Three Design Pillars of Hades' Star

Last year, while pondering what I personally saw as the promise of Master of Orion, I identified three key elements of that promise:

Exploration and Progression: Exploring and expanding into interesting parts of space, growing your empire from nothing to a formidable force in the universe

Diplomacy: Interacting with other players in a highly political environment that involves friendships, rivalries, unholy alliances, betrayals

Strategy: Making meaningful strategic decisions, using (sometimes incomplete and hazy) information that the game provides

These three elements have become design pillars for Hades' Star. Every idea for a feature that could go into the game is evaluated by asking "How does this advance one or more of the pillars?". Ideas that don't cleanly relate to at least one pillar (or worse, contradict one of them) are quickly discarded. This allows us to maintain focus.

The three pillars are central to the game we're trying to make, and I'll be analyzing how each one is affecting development in upcoming posts.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Announcing Hades' Star

Today, my partner and I are excited to announce Hades’ Star, an original, social, persistent online strategy game designed for mobile devices. The game’s newly launched web site has some initial information, and will be updated with more information over the next several months as development continues.

With this announcement post, I wanted to focus on two things. First, some personal background on why create this particular kind of game. Second, some thoughts on the current business environment on mobile platforms, including a promise of sharing any resources we can with other small studios making service-based games.