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Stellar Indie Venture: Red Shift

By on May 30th, 2012 11:19 am


\Edit (Oct 8th, 2012): Red Shift’s development was cancelled.

Luckily for us there has been a good supply of new space 4X games as of recently. There is also another good bunch of them on the horizon, each for every taste.

It’s true that space 4X games tend to provide different kinds of experiences, but in one aspect they all tend to be the same: most of them play space opera style, on an imaginary distant galaxy with more or less distinct anthropomorphic alien races. Well, looks like there will be a slight shift of plans…

Couple of days ago I stumbled into Red Shift (thanks Sigma), a new space 4X game that is currently in the making by indie adventurer Elliott Hill. Elliott is, at the moment, the sole member of the Messier8 developement team, lead programmer and creator of Red Shift. He’s a software engineer by formation and is building his first game: a grand strategy game with 4X elements set in an alternative history sci-fi setting.

In this new historic scenario, Elliott proposes that German rocket scientist Von Braun (responsible for the space age becoming a reality in this century) doesn’t get “captured” by the Americans, but, you guessed it, by the other interested party: the Soviets. Therefore, voila, the game name. In fact the game was formerly named Terra Orbis but Elliott explains why he changed the name. I think he made a good choice ;)

So, Elliott proposes us a 4X experience where we play as one of real Earth’s nations to fight for control of other worlds, in the solar system and possibly beyond. What a refreshing twist to space 4X games!

A quick Q&A with Elliott:

SS: What will your game be like? Tell us a bit more about it.

Elliott: The game in a nutshell is a fusion of 4X and grand strategy. Major features: RTS space combat, unscripted grand campaign and a dynamic faction and character system. The strategy map will play out like a Grand Strategy game, with sandbox-like goals, e.g. you don’t have to be imperialistic, you could if you wanted create a peaceful trading empire or have your own goals like unite all the moons of Jupiter under your control.

SS: What about the different factions? What happens when they settle new worlds in the solar system?

Elliott: Factions will die and be born over the immense time frame of the campaign, for example if you colonize Europa, when the population there gets to a reasonable size they will no longer desire to be ruled from a distant planet and will look to rebel and form their own nation ruled from Europa with it’s own culture, so you will have internal struggles as well as external in your empire.

SS: So, it’s a 4X game right?

Elliott: The combat and ship editor should make it feel like a 4X. Maybe it’s a “grand strategy in a 4X’s clothing”. Ship design is not really a big feature, just an afterthought.

Game project synopsis (at time of writing):

  • Name: Red Shift
  • Type: 4X real-time strategy
  • Predominant sci-fi setting: Alternate history
  • Major features: Campaign, RTS space combat, terraforming, events, characters
  • Status: Pre-alpha (8th week development)
  • Team: 1 (Elliott Hill)
  • Funding scheme: Self funded
  • Dev requests/needs: Feedback, 3D modeller services, 2D/3D artist services
  • Email contact:
  • Blog and social media: dev blog, twitter, youtube

So, if you’re excited about Elliott’s project, as I am, please do whatever you can to help him out on fulfilling his dream. If you’re a 2D/3D artist or a 3D modeller send Elliott an email. And, as always in indie games, the dev would highly appreciate any comments about his project you may have. I will keep two eyes on this one.

Trailer & Screenshots

(week 8 development)

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  1. Seboss says:

    Looks great. Definitely have to keep it on the radar. I just hope the makers of the RedShift astronomy software ( won’t mind the title change :S

  2. fafrin says:

    Yes looks promising,early days but lets hope we’ll see it’s release.

  3. salvo says:

    wow, looks like the game I’ve been dreaming of :-)

    looks like a very ambitious project and really hope Elliot will be able to complete it. Have you considered kickstarter to get the funding for additional ressources?

    what I’ve found more and more disapponting in traditional 4x games is the fact that expansion is reduced to a pure quantitive matter of mass colonization. Discovering a new planet apt for colonization becomes a negligeable event as the player is forced by gameplay to immediately look for the next one. The region based approach for each planet may be the right step to shift the focus onto quality rather than mere quantity.

    • Elliott says:

      I live in the UK, so Kickstarter is off limits at the moment, they only accept US bank accounts, but I believe they are working on getting a payment system to work for europe. Also I want to have atleast a playable demo to show off before asking for funding. I am considering adding some kind of pre-order/funding on the website.

      • Smight says:

        Xenonauts managed to get kickstarter, and they are from UK , maby you should comtact them to see hoe they did it.

      • Da-Fort says:

        I’ve got a quote from the Easter update from Xenonauts. I read the previous posts back then but it went above my head so I did not try to remember what they were talking about. Anyways here is the quote:

        Chris: “Our plans for the future are (as many of you already know) to do a Kickstarter. There’s been some discussion about how we can get around the US citizen requirement that Kickstarter has, and after exhausting a lot of possibilities over the past month I think we’ve finally hit on one that works. My thanks go out to our forumite Kilrathi, who is a corporate attorney over in the US and has helped us set up a US company and is in the process of setting up a corporate bank account for us.

        This, while costing us a few hundred dollars, is a safe option for us – I can have full control over the bank account and Kilrathi is therefore not on the hook taxwise at all. It has, naturally, involved a LOT of form filling for the both of us, but I’m about to run off to get the final forms signed before FedExing them across the world. I imagine it’ll still take a couple of weeks for everything to come together, but Kilrathi has been a fantastic help and it goes to show that where there is a will, there is a way!”

  4. Elliott says:

    Hi, Developer here, happy to answer any questions.


    • salvo says:

      impressive what you have accomplished in just 8 weeks development time!
      The skirmish mode is RTS. Is the strategy layer turn based? The starting setting is static, the sol system, what about the rest of the galaxy, it is randomly generated at game start?

      • Elliott says:

        Thank you. The strategy map is also in real time! Sol and the close surrounding systems, Alpha Centauri, Epsilon, Gliese etc. are roughly accurate and stars further than that it will be randomly generated, there will likely be some sort of options regarding random generation, numbers of systems, chance of terraformable planets, density etc.

    • salvo says:

      thanks Elliott

      provided the character system design is already so far: other than appointing characters as ministers to the central government, will it also be possible to assign governors to colonized planets and military leaders to fleets?
      As the planets are divided by regions which can be occupied by other factions, how will ground combat be handled?

      • Elliott says:

        You can assign governors to any regions and generals to fleets. Though I’ll add more options for characters in the future. Planetary combat won’t be as “involved” as space battles, you will be able to build ground forces as “garrisons” to regions, and you will be able to do basic things, such as going on the offensive against another region. Ships stationed in orbit will be able to “bombard” enemy regions too.

    • Tycow says:

      Elliott, this looks like the game I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I wish you well in your development of it and hope all goes well! :)

    • Doug Miller says:

      This looks amazing! You had me at the realistic near-star map.

    • Sigma says:

      Since this is the Cold War (in space), what role will nukes play?

    • MarcusAurelius says:

      This game looks to be one of the few titles out there that really wants to take a serious approach to the space genre and not be another one of those unrealistic, generic and lazy offerings as in times past. The only game with as much attention to detail that was a fully satisfying for me was Nexus Jupiter Incident. That game blew me away with the accurate stellar depictions of celestial bodies.

      I wonder will this title try to include accurate star sizes and spectral types? The reason I ask is that this game looks like it takes itself seriously and perhaps will tie in spectral class or stellar classification of stars and size with how many planets it will be able to hold which can play a major role in empire building strategy, something not quite capitalized on in past 4X space strategy games. For instance a G type main sequence star like our Suns habitability or Goldilocks zone versus a K type slightly cooler star of similar mass, may be negligible however still offer some variation in planet abundance or rocky worlds versus gas giants. But an M type red dwarf star versus an O type blue hyper giant star would be like comparing apples to oranges, definitely massive variations in planet types to be found in such stars. Well just food for thought. My mind is racing ahead of me because so far what your alpha screens and videos have shown me just has me grinning like a schoolboy! I wish you the best of luck in realizing this game soon.

      PS: Will you have binary or even trinary systems? How will you represent Alpha Centauri? It it holds a G type star similar to our own orbiting with a K type star that come within 11AU at closest approach(Distance from our Sun to Saturn), and then within 35AU at furthest approach(astronomical units – Sun and Pluto) I ask this because I notice you using accurate scales for the distance of celestial bodies and their gravity wells.

      • Elliott says:

        Sorry for the late reply and Thank you for the keen interest! I do definitely have plans to accurately represent known stars in our galactic arm, including binary and trinary star systems. Each planet and moon has a liferating, it has not been coded yet, but it will take into account star type, scale, orbit radius and infer temperature and thus terraformability from those previous stats.

        Since I began I have mainly been focusing on gameplay and making it fun, and have not had the luxury of time to work on the astronomical side of the game. Which I no doubt will in the coming weeks and the next build should look like an improvement in terms of realism.

  5. Tycow says:

    Adam – your link to Elliot’s dev blog is broken… it’s pointing towards

  6. Kyle Rees says:

    Reminds me of Aurora with graphics. Thanks for the find!

  7. Ashbery76 says:

    Looks an interesting take but I think character systems require more immersion with personality traits rather than than just stale stats.

    What is “out there” in the galaxy? What is your goal.

    • Elliott says:

      The character system is empty code at the minute, has had all in all about 2/3 hours of work. You can’t expect me to finish every aspect of the game in 8 weeks do you? hehe

  8. Scimarad says:

    I’ve been getting jaded on the whole Space 4X thing because you just colonize world after world after world and none of them feel particularly special. I’ve been looking for game that starts out with you struggling to colonize the solar system and maybe, eventually, get to travel to other stars. It would be nice if in some of these games getting a working moon colony and finally getting to Mars was actually a huge achievement! Closest I’ve seen to that so far was Light of Altair.

    This game looks like something I’d hugely enjoy, especially as it seems like the nations of Earth will be competing:)

  9. Jay says:

    Looks like you have a follower. Let us know when you get a working demo out.

  10. Master of Orion says:


    Seems like a great game.
    Small suggestion.
    It very important in this types of games to have a good user interface which really matches the atmosphere. As it is now it looks like some scientific datasheets and i get impression of the number crunching. Look at MMO2 – some info is by default on the screen other numbers and details are presented in a very short form and with a big font :)
    I think interface is very very very important in the fact how you perceive a game – whether you feel it like a scientific space simulator with a bit of “fun”, or you FEEL that it is an adventurous story where every new turn brings something new.

    Thank you for thinking about this message.

    • Elliott says:

      Woops, I replied to the wrong place.

      Hi MOO, Thank you for the great feedback. The games UI on the current build looks like this

      I was wondering what specific changes you would make? As UI is not my one of my areas of expertise.


      • Master of Orion says:

        Dear Creator,

        Take a look at this three classics examples of the genres you want to blend – MMO2 +Rome Total War + Europa Universalis. In each of them we have a very well matched user interface to the setting of the game. I would even say that Europa Univerasalis interface being the worst from them. Rome and MMO2 interfaces offer clean and EASY way to look at your empire.

        Comment of the user Bruce actually backs my point:
        Its important to declare in the user interface parameters and things which are really important for the game, and thus for the inner mechanics of the games engine.

        For example simple rectangular boxes for info screens and menus is not good (to my taste) Rectangles should be ornamented with some symbolism from the game setting for example USSR faction,space exploration, technology bits and so on, since the game name is Red Shift and its about space. Second thing is font, font also has to bear some “boldness” if so may be said. It has to represent the monumentality, darkness, and epicness of the game. Red empire can not have little tall scientific font, it has to have a font in which the fate of the world is written. :)

        This is general style ideas.

        About the game logics.
        You may look at the game Mount and Blade Warband in which to my acclaim, the best grand realtime strategy is realized – in compaign mode. It also has more or less open code for getting ideas how to organize a complex sandbox grand strategy with fairly simple core ideas.

        Ship design.

        This feature is off course great. But i fear in grand strategy it can be little bit too much. (since it will possibly break the game flow)
        I would suggest to make it like bonus – for example if i have a hero scientist in my nation then i have access to ship design if not the no :) Or or even better! Ship design is only available after some time when a new batch of engineers if finally available (remember as in master of orion scientists where responsible for the speed of research? same here – engineers are responsible for the time when ship design becomes available). Well depends on the scope you want to put in.


        Ok here. I would say the best grand strategy game is the one which feels big and which plays almost like a card game. How to make the game feel big? -> provide some realistic info and parameters, also show that computer and player nations are actually doing something even if there is not specific command :) Player can change some of this inner parameters just for the sake of his ego but they are not really important.
        How to make game feel like a card game? – again looking at the master of orion. If its a grand strategy then as a player I HAVE to have GRAND TOOLS – ability to negotiate with other nations and HEROES, spying and so on, plus ability to issue or receive some special events (the more special events the better) – spies suddenly captured new technology, scientists suddenly made some good breakthrough and so on.

        The creativity here is endless.
        A happy journey.

        Thank you for thinking about this message.

  11. Elliott says:

    Hi MOO, Thank you for the great feedback. The games UI on the current build looks like this

    I was wondering what specific changes you would make? As UI is not my one of my areas of expertise.


  12. Bruce says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the interfaces Elliott. Those can always be tweaked in the end, like a windows blinds app or some other custom overlay. The important thing to focus on now is the blood and guts of the game engine and core graphics. Will you be making this game DirectX 10/11 friendly? Or is it standing on a DirectX 9 engine? Either way I understand how you need to cater for a wider audience and that most gamers are still chugging along on DirectX 9 graphics even in 2012! Well dude stay focused you are doing a marvelous job so far. Remember slow and steady wins the race, and your game is certainly going on gradually and steadily from strength to strength. Thankyou for making this game for us true hardcore 4X space fans, who care about the little things when making a fine game.

  13. Alex says:

    This may be the most ambitious game I have ever stumbled across.

    I truly hope this one makes it to finished product with as broad a player base as possible.

    Awesome work, will definitely be looking forward to this, as it’s pretty much THE game I’ve been waiting for.

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Post category: Games Under Development, Stellar Indie Venture