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Interview: Stardock's head talks about Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy

Die hard fans Ironclad Games' 2008 sleeper PC game hit Sins of a Solar Empire have already gotten a small mini-expansion to the space strategy game Entrenchment. Next week those fans will get a second mini-expansion in Diplomacy while folks who have never played the original game can get it and the two mini-expansions together in the new retail collection Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity.

Stardock is handling the publishing duties for the mini-expansion and new collection and Big Download got Stardock's CEO Brad Wardell to chat briefly about what fans can expect from Diplomacy. We also tried to get him to talk about future Sins of a Solar Empire plans but as you will read later, he's not yet talking about it.
First, Ironclad and Stardock's decision to release mini-expansions for Sins of a Solar Empire was an interesting choice. So far has the plan turned out as well as you expected?

The micro-expansions have been an interesting challenge on two fronts. From an expectations point of view, we've ended up having to put in a full-expansion pack's worth of content because even though the expansions are only $9.99. And then on the other side, it gets difficult to get media coverage of something that's only $9.99. For example, Entrenchment, which was a pretty large expansion to the original game, only got a handful of reviews because it was only $9.99 ("we don't review micro expansions").

The second mini-expansion, Diplomacy, sounds like it will have less of a combat focus this time. Why did you want to improve on the game's non-combat features?

Probably the biggest reason has to do with allowing a lot more flexibility for players. Prior to Diplomacy, players had virtually no control over which players they were at war with. Inevitably, this meant that good players ended up with all the computer players against them which could get frustrating for players. Now, those players can play a deadly diplomatic game of keeping different sides at bay while they pursue their larger agendas.

What are some of the major changes and additions that will be put into the diplomatic part of the game as part of the expansion?

There's a ton of new things in Diplomacy that allow the player to employ Machiavellian strategies. For instance, now players can tell computer players go on missions for them. They can even get the pirates to make special raids against enemies without the victim ever knowing who is pulling the strings. There are also a bunch of new treaties and pacts that can greatly enhance the player's economy through new types of trade and knowledge sharing. So players who do become allied can put in effort to become greater than the sum of their parts.

And finally, there is now a diplomatic victory condition. Based on the relations with other players, the player can score diplomatic points which slowly tick up towards a victory threshold. Obviously, if your opponent is on his way to a diplomatic victory, you'll need to act on it. But it provides another path for players to achieve domination.

What other additions will be part of Diplomacy?

There are a lot of changes that have been made under the covers. The computer AI is significantly improved. There are new computer AI difficulty levels which creates a bunch of new game scenarios. We have also added about a dozen new game scenarios for players to try out. In addition, there are a lot of new options for increasing the pacing of the game. Some of our fans wanted to play the larger scenarios but find it takes too long. Now, there are options to speed the game along a bit faster.

Stardock and Ironclad are also releasing Sins of a Solar Empire Trinity with the original game and the two mini-expansions in stores. How does it feel to see the game being re-released in this way?

It is nice to be able to put the whole thing together as a cohesive whole. The original Sins of a Solar Empire is a great game but it's only when you play Trinity – the two expansions integrated together – that you can see just how far it has come.

Last fall it was revealed that there would be no third Sins mini-expansions but that something else Sins-related was in the works. Can you give us any hints on these plans?

My lips are sealed. :)


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