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Polaris Sector Announced and Beta Sign Ups Begin

By on October 30th, 2015 10:56 am

Polaris Sector Announced | Space 4X real-time game from Slitherine and SoftWarWare

Slitherine has announced Polaris Sector, an upcoming real-time space 4X game from developer SoftWarWare. Along with the standard 4X features we’ve come to expect, Slitherine states it also offers a “fresh take on the 4X genre”. Key features include fully customizable ships, real-time tactical combat, diplomacy, an “Innovative research system”, and a “Unique espionage system”. It also features what appears to be a rather robust economic system with numerous metals and materials to gather and utilize.

Turn-based 4X fans should take note that, while it is a real-time game, it does feature pausable real-time. In fact, the developer has stated the game feels much more like a turn-based game than an RTS one.

If Polaris Sector seems familiar to you, there’s a good reason. It has been in development for some time, but under different names including “Remember Tomorrow” and “Galaxia: Remember Tomorrow”. In fact, its development has been updated on our own forums for quite some time now. It certainly looks like it has received some major graphical improvements as well as feature enhancements since those early days.

Polaris Sector Announced | Its unique research system doesn't utilize a traditional tech tree

Beta Signups have begun

Slitherine has also announced that they are now accepting beta applications. If you’re interested in applying for beta access and taking part in testing the product before its official release (release hinted at somewhere “next year”), this beta application link will take you to the sign-up page. Note that you’ll need to sign up for a Slitherine account to apply if you don’t already have one.

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57 Comments


  1. Gary Vandegrift says:

    Sounds interesting, but I’ll wait for more info (and gameplay videos) before getting my hopes up :)

  2. chuki792 says:

    looks like both Paradox (Stellaris) and now Slitherine are attempting to steal Distant World’s crown… a very tall and ambitious target indeed. I welcome it though, while I love DW I feel it’s lack of competition could be detrimental to future games in the series and now that the two would-be kings have shown their cards (albeit very early in their developments) I’m eagerly waiting for details on DW2.

    PP. Is it bad that whenever a new space strategy game is announced I just think what the DW devs are planning to trump it?? :-P

    • ufnv says:

      Matrix and Slitherine are now the same company, so both DW and Polaris are “theirs”…

      And I spent quite a time discussing with Elliot (DW author) different game aspects during Slitherine’s HOW15 event where all their development partners meet.

  3. ACEofHeart says:

    As a long time turn based gamer, I’m always a little suspicious with how companies will handle a 4x type of game in real time that would satisfy a truly strategic approach. When it comes to real time, I feel a good AI, although predictable, has a bigger advantage than they would compared to turn base. Some have incorporated it in with areas of success, many have not. All too often you always feel a constant need to rush everything and eventually without your own good AI managers, left with an out of control base/colony setup. And though incorporating a pause feature, I feel any game you need to “pause” numerous times to stay balanced should of probably been turn based to begin with.
    With that said I still try and play some real time games and will keep an eye of this one’s development.

    • Jeff P says:

      I’m with you on RTS vs TB even when the game is pause-able. What always bothers me is the impossibility of overseeing all aspects of your empire while micromanaging tactical engagements. The player is forced to either hope for the best in the battle, or trust that your empire can fend for itself for a while.

      Some games have addressed this quandary by splitting tactical and strategic action: Starships Unlimited was realtime on a strategic level, and when a ship went into battle, the game would pause and switch to a realtime ship-vs-ship/planet combat screen.

      • Keith Turner says:

        I may have some good news for you. Polaris Sector may work in the manner you describe assuming this remark from the forum is still true “When you fleet meets enemy one, the game enters a tactical combat mode.” This would eliminate the issue you mention about splitting time between empire and tactical combat management.

        • Jeff P says:

          That would be great news! That feature has been used in only a few games that I can recall, but it seemed to really improve the flow of the play and I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t employed in more RTS games.

        • ufnv says:

          Yes, it has the instantiated tactical combat, not on the same strategic map, so it cannot be missed. Also an attention is paid for the player to be warned in advance on incoming enemy fleet. Unless it is not a “cloaked” fleet that can surpass you frontier defence and strike right into the heart of your empire, if you do not pay attention to secure your inner space or at least build long-range scanners to detect such surprises.

      • Mark says:

        Starships Unlimited – despite the goofy name – was an amazing little indie 4x space game. It completely solved all the RT problems that plague DW so badly.

        Absolutely brilliant game design which of course no dev has since copied because they are all too busy designing yet another continuous RT game with starlanes.

    • ufnv says:

      In Polaris there is an “auto-pause”, that can be triggered by more than 50 different events. If you allow all these triggers, the game will be basically turn-based, but with “non-uniform turns”.

      In a classical TB game, simplifying, every turn you first check your planets, give new orders if necessary, then check fleets, give new orders if necessary, then press “End Turn” button to proceed.

      In Polaris you check you planets, give new orders if necessary, check fleets, give new orders, then press “Play” button to proceed.

      But while in TB right after the turn is calculated, the game processing stops waiting for the new “End Turn” button click, in Polaris the game processing stops when something happens (construction finished, fleet reached it’s destination, new technology invented, enemy fleet approaching, unrest started on some planet, etc).
      And then you react on this event and press “Play” button to continue.

      So, in TB the process looks like this:

      orders -> End Turn Button -> orders if needed -> End Turn Button -> orders if needed -> End Turn ->
      Button
      in Polaris:

      orders -> Play Button -> Event! -> orders -> Play Button -> Event! -> orders -> Play Button ->

      • Mark says:

        This is actually starting to sound interesting, very similar to the way “Starships Unlimited” did it, ie. the game would run along in RT and then pause automatically when anything “interesting” happened. Good design.

        Now all you have to do is ditch the starlanes. :)

  4. Gunlord500 says:

    Sounds cool, though the “turn-based” RTS idea reminds me of Stardrive…

  5. Jeff P says:

    We appear to be in a period of space gaming riches. Polaris Sector is very attractive (although I’m not thrilled with the RTS aspect) and there are dozens of other games on the horizon as well.

    Has anyone played these three recent indies: Star Hammer, Rebel Galaxy and Solar Wars? They look interesting, and most reviews on Steam are positive, but none have been reviewed here or on other major gaming sites.

    • Keith Turner says:

      There certainly are a lot of options these days. Another recent release for those who like action/strategy space titles is Beyond Sol. It is currently holding a “Very Positive” average on Steam, though the review sample size is small.

      I’ve not played any of the three you mentioned. Of the three, Rebel Galaxy is the one I would be most likely to pickup at some point. It isn’t the type of game I typically play, but it does have a certain appeal.

  6. Mark says:

    RT – Tactical combat, check.
    Starlanes, check.

    Seems like these 2 game-killing concepts are almost mandatory in space 4x games nowadays. And strangely enough all the games that featured them have been mediocre at best, and that’s being generous.

    I could live with the sour taste of dumbed-down RT combat but starlanes are a deal breaker. I like to feel like my space games are actually set in space, not on a giant, abstract chess board. Pass.

    • UncaJoe says:

      I’m with you, Mark. The ONLY game I’ve played with star lanes, and mostly liked, was Space Empires. Otherwise, sorry, no deal. Also, I like and play (once in a while) Distant Worlds, but it is by no means my favorite. Oh, and by the way, chess is more fun.

      • Mark says:

        I readily agree about Space Empires, it was probably the least mediocre of the starlane-based games, although the AI was just terrible. Why do starlane fans always say it makes AI programming easier when pretty much all the starlane-based games ever released had horrible AI?

        I love Distant Worlds but I would say that galaxy-wide RT is by far its biggest weakness, in fact in the case of large galaxies it pretty much ends up breaking the game.

        And yes Chess is indeed awesome, although the last thing it makes me feel like is a space admiral. To get that immersive feeling I turn towards space 4x games, unless of course they involve spacelanes. :)

        • dayrinni says:

          I have SE4, but have yet to find time to play it. Is it any good?

          I played DW after the first expansion came out, it was pretty good but I got sidetracked (it was then, I decided to make a game). I modded DW to be Star Wars and took over the galaxy. MUCH FUN WAS HAD! I’d do it again if time permitted.

          It really is a fantastic time for 4X games. A lot has happened in the past 5 years and some good, some bad, some average. But I personally would rather have it this way rather than nothing at all or very little (2006-2010 or so).

        • Mark says:

          SE4 is…….. ok. The techs and what you can do with them are amazing, they give you an enormous amount of freedom to design and build exactly what you want. The combat is ok. But sadly the artificially restrictive stalanes and lobotomized AI really bring the game down.

          I wish you all the best with your game. From what I’ve heard of your design philosophy, you actually seem to *get* what made MOO 2 so great, which apparently no one else does. It sounds like your game would be something I’d love to play.

        • dayrinni says:

          @Mark,

          Thanks for the info about SE4. I’ll have to boot up Steam to see if I have any other SE games, haha. What other ones do you suggest in the SE series to focus on?

          I just buy random games to play later (years later). I did play Endless Space when it came out, which I enjoyed several aspects of it, it was very pretty and the UI was great.

          Also, thanks for the kind words about the development! If you want to help alpha test, just check my thread on the forums here.

        • Mark says:

          @ dayrinni
          SE5 is quite reasonable too although I think SE4 is slightly superior even thought the graphics are pretty minimal. It would be hard to beat the SE series for the most inventive ways you can use technology and design things. Just about any concept you can think of you can build, its just a pity about the AI and the starlanes.

          Thanks, I’ll check out your game, I honestly dont know all that much about it although I was vaguely aware that you were developing something. I quite enjoyed those articles you wrote on game design some time back too.

        • dayrinni says:

          @Mark

          Thanks! I loaded up Steam and it seems I have SE4 Deluxe only. I’m really intrigued with what you say about the technologies and how they can be really flexible and able to do a lot of cool things with them. I have some vacation coming up in December, so maybe I’ll give it a shot then!

          I also have to play StarDrive, and give Endless Space another shot.

          Sounds good! It’s still in Alpha. I don’t want to post too much here about it since it’s OT, so contact me via forum PM and we can chat there :)

    • dayrinni says:

      I totally agree. I prefer no star lanes to star lanes (even though I can tolerate them). I also think the TBS tactical combat is much better than RT combat. This is why my 4X game will not have star lanes and RT combat. These are thinking games, not twitch. You should have enough time to decide how to act and then decide what you want to do. Also, the RT combat can easily degenerate into a zerg type game play – select all units and charge! Little thinking there, IMO. I did a lot of testing and system types before settling on a TBS combat model.

      Even though MoO2 got tedious at the end in combat, I still took HUGE pleasure in planning each move and weapon usage for each ship for each combat. It was pretty satisfying. I suppose though, the new technological capabilities and powers of the average PC makes designers try to make games that are cutting edge so I can’t really complain about them doing this.

      • Keith Turner says:

        My preference is optional star lanes. Sword of the Stars system of multiple travel methods, including star lanes, is a good example of this. Stellaris also looks to be going that route.

        I enjoy both real-time and turn-based combat, but my favorite systems to date have been turn-based. I try to stay open minded though.

        • Vendor-Lazarus says:

          @Keith
          Sword of the Stars did a lot of things right with regards to optional choices.
          2D/3D map, Optional Star lanes, pausable RT combat, RNG Research and events…etc

          I prefer playing with Hiver in a 2D map and auto-resolve much of the combat.
          Such variation gives more re-playability and remembrance power.

          @All
          I’m saddened to see any kind of bashing or vying for somethings occlusion while I can understand the need to have one’s own voice/preference heard.

          Regarding “feeling like space”..
          There is nothing (yet) to indicate that an FTL-drive is more viable, realistically, than Wormhole or Space-folding..
          If it was really like in space you would barely be able to leave your own solar system, let alone enter another during a single game.

        • Mark says:

          Actually I have no problem with starlanes being optional, I just wont use them :) Devs might well complain about the added work though. I enjoyed both SOTS games (I more than II) mostly because I never played the humans.

          As for viability I agree that wormholes are just as likely as any other FTL theory, but EACH solar system having at *least* one wormhole, connecting ONLY certain stars and ONLY nearby stars in the familiar starlane net-pattern is definitely NOT likely at all. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a scientific FTL theory this contrived and convoluted. Wormholes just don’t work like that, at least in theory. It’s just a blatant gamey mechanic to restrict movement and force terrain and choke points like you would find in a land-based game. Nothing wrong with gamey mechanics, but they should at least fit the genre.

          Wormholes are not a problem, MOO 2 used them with great success. But starlanes are a lot more convoluted than mere wormholes. They change the entire nature of the game so that it no longer feels like space.

        • dayrinni says:

          Hello!

          Optional is always good. The more choices we have the better in the type of games we like to play. Just wish more developers would go that route. There are times when I’ll play a game (any genre) and it has 1 or 2 things that just dampen my excitement and enjoyment about it and it could be changed by just adding a simple option somewhere.

        • ufnv says:

          In Polaris there are some technologies that allows for creating “artificial” star lanes. They are available approximately mid-game, and also can be added to you race skills while configuring it, at the cost of some “race points” that could be spent on something else otherwise, like faster science progress.

          So, even that there is no totally “free travel” in the game, there is a “workaround” that allows for better strategy. One can create a stealthy “portal ship”, move it into the enemy space and open a new star lane that connects the star where you attack fleets are and the star you want to attack. This would be an equivalent of just sending you fleet directly there.

          The only trick is to move you “portal ship” unnoticed through the frontier.

        • Mark says:

          Not as good as being optional, but definitely better than nothing.

        • Gary Vandegrift says:

          @Mark: “As for viability I agree that wormholes are just as likely as any other FTL theory, but EACH solar system having at *least* one wormhole, connecting ONLY certain stars and ONLY nearby stars in the familiar starlane net-pattern is definitely NOT likely at all.”

          Unless the wormholes are artificial, created by aliens as a super-highway. Hey, it could happen :)

      • UncaJoe says:

        Just for the record, one thing I *REALLY* like about Space Empires and MOO2: you can keep all your ships and upgrade them periodically throughout the game. Great! BTW, SE5 is about the best of the series (IMHO). I think it also comes in a Deluxe edition or something equivalent.

        • ufnv says:

          Here you can assign personal names to our ships and upgrade them, to keep the experience they gained during previous combats. The only restriction is the upgrade is possible within one hull class only – you cannot upgrade Corvette into a Cruiser.

        • Gary Vandegrift says:

          If only SE5 didn’t have that whole mouse-slow-down problem in Windows Vista/7/etc.

    • BTAxis says:

      I find it surprising how much hate there is over star lanes in 4X games. I think they help add structure to the map and can (depending on the implementation) create interesting strategic situations. That’s not to say I don’t also like the freeform FTL model, but it kind of bothers me that there is no way whatsoever to intercept fleets in DW.

      • dayrinni says:

        IMO, I think it deals with restricting peoples sense of freedom and movement of vast space, coupled with creating choke points or situations where the game play becomes deterministic (not saying it can’t be that way without star lanes, but more pronounced/possible perhaps).

        But that’s just my 2 cents on the matter.

      • Mark says:

        No way whatsoever to intercept fleets in DW?!? Seriously? A huge part of the game is about intercepting fleets in an open, fluid, non-structured environment. Space. All you need is good sensors, hyper-deny and a faster fleet. Works every single time. You’re welcome.

      • ACEofHeart says:

        I just accept game’s Star Lanes as how we can travel from one solar system to another. Seems fine and plausible to me. I care about how other factors are done far more importantly like Diplomacy, Spying, Researching, Colony Management, Ship Building and Victory options. Nice graphics is always a plus.. :D

  7. Avon says:

    Space is not structured. It has no choke points, no roads, no mountains, no valleys. It is free and open. Immersion is important.

    • sabiticus says:

      Well, we can’t really say that for certain, right? It may very well be that star lanes are a real thing. I personally don’t dislike them, but I do prefer that a game that utilizes them also allows for alternatives, or at least the manipulation of star lanes. SoTS nailed it as far as I am concerned. What I would love to see is a game is a variety of possible forms interstellar travel, and letting the player research and use different ones. That would be interesting.

      • Avon says:

        Also cant CERTAINLY say that we wont fly to distant stars on the back of giant, winged, golden unicorns. But seems about as likely as weird net of starlanes at every star.

    • ACEofHeart says:

      Everything you say about Space is true. But it’s not about Space, it’s about Space Travel, more precisely Traveling to other Solar Systems, which given our technology and life expectancy is absolutely impossible! Whether a lot of game designers use Star Lanes as a way to overcome that or it’s just easier to program an AI , I really can’t use logic to dislike them. It’s just a design choice. I personally am not going to ever count out any space strategy game before it even comes out just because of Star Lanes.

      • Avon says:

        Logic is not the same as immersion. Playing space game should feel like space, not roads.

        • ACEofHeart says:

          I said I can’t use logic to dislike it. I’m talking about how “I” feel,, not you.. What are you trying to convince me about ?? I get very very immersed in Space Strategy games,, even ones with Star Lanes,, you don’t. check,, got it.. LOL

        • Avon says:

          Sorry you get so excited. English is not my mother tongue so I probably misunderstand you. Happens all the time :D

        • Vendor-Lazarus says:

          @Avon & @All
          Just a friendly jab, I intend no disrespect here, but following that logic I assume you dislike 2D maps as well as Star lanes?

          Space is 3 dimensional after all. ,)

          Turn-based anything would also fall by the road-side as real life is continuous.

          Again, I wasn’t trying to be mean, I just can’t fathom the absolute loathing for Star lanes some have.

          The more 4X games and options the merrier for everyone. ^^

        • Mark says:

          @ Vendor-Lasarus: Speaking only for myself, I think part of the problem is that you are confusing immersion with realism. Most people realize that absolute realism in a space game is not only undesirable but impossible. After all an average galaxy – in reality – normally has more than a hundred billion stars. Try running your space empire in that :)

          And I know from bitter experience with SOTS that my brain doesn’t play at all well with a 3d map (much as I would like it to).

          It is therefore necessary to make concessions, both for the sake of play-ability and adequate control. Quite often some degree of immersion must be sacrificed to achieve that. That’s ok with me because it achieves a necessary purpose.

          The difference with starlanes is that a huge amount of immersion is sacrificed for absolutely no gain at all. Worse, it is sacrificed to make space strategy behave like land strategy (by adding terrain – roads and mountains) which is the *LAST* thing I want when playing a space game because it has nothing to do with the nature of space and kills my immersion for nothing.

          Furthermore, the choke points added by starlanes greatly encourage stacks-of-death and turtling because you can just park your giant stack at one or two choke points, safe in the knowledge that your enemy will never be able to go around or surprise you. You never have to develop better sensor range or worry about keeping a close eye on your neighbors or carefully distribute your fleet to guard against surprise attacks or deep-strikes on core worlds because such things are actually impossible. Strategically speaking I find that very restrictive and boring.

          Hope that helps you understand. You mention options at the end of your post and I have no problem with starlanes being optional. I will just turn them off.

        • Vendor-Lazarus says:

          @Mark
          I was probably confused by the interchanging use of “like real space” and “feel like space”.
          Realism is realism, but immersion is subjective and different for all.
          Star lanes don’t break my immersion because I don’t yet know how star travel will unfold.

          I also don’t put as much emphasis on battles, combat, strife, conquest and war so that might influence my thinking as well.
          I prefer exploration, research and building.

          I whole-hardheartedly agree on SotS 3D map.
          It probably could have worked with a free-floating camera and some sort of distance marker/background though. Maybe..

          I do understand, we just differ in our approach to immersion.
          (Don’t get me started on cockpits in space-ship sims..)

          I’m all for giving you the option to turn off Star lanes, as long as you don’t deny me the option to turn them on. ,)

        • Avon says:

          @ Vendor
          What Mark said! :D

        • Mark says:

          @ Vendor-Lazarus:

          “I don’t yet know how star travel will unfold.”

          Well neither do I, but having it unfold in a massively contrived way to look (strategically speaking) exactly like land-based combat, complete with roads and mountains is not something that encourages my immersion in a space game. Quite the opposite. I actually envy that you can maintain your immersion in such a “hostile” environment, I wish I could do the same.

          “I prefer exploration, research and building.”

          Yes this is a big difference between us. For me, these things are just tedious chores to get to the real fun of smashing digital spaceships :) I very much enjoy the strategic thinking behind both attack and defense which I find greatly simplified by the addition of starlanes as I described previously. Defensive strategy in particular is horribly neutered by starlanes.

          “I’m all for giving you the option to turn off Star lanes, as long as you don’t deny me the option to turn them on. ,)”

          Deal! :)

      • ACEofHeart says:

        One possible alternative to the structure of how most Star Lanes are incorporated might be to “not” make it an automatic battle the first time you enter a solar system where an opponent has parked a fleet. Fleets could be there to protect their planets, not be a presence in every inch of an entire solar system. Maybe you could have the opportunity on the next turn to retreat from where you came, stay and fight, or traverse a different lane. just a thought.. :D

        • ufnv says:

          This makes some sense, but also has its own drawbacks:
          1. Allowing to pass through and continue to another star lane is not “realistic”, as by common sense that another star lane is situated quite far from the first one, so the fleet need to traverse the whole system before departing
          2. Retreat immediately is the good option, but it removes the feature of “ambushing”, when you attacking while are not sure what exact enemy composition is on the another end.

    • ToniB says:

      What you guys think of subspace projectors in StarDrive? By default, you can travel anywhere you want at a slow pace, but you can also build “space roads” with said projectors, to enable faster travel. Kind of star lanes, but engineered, and you can still travel in the open. I like the idea very much: whatever the quality of your ship’s engines, it is always better to use the highways. Makes me think of Zuul’s Tunnel Drive in Sword of the Stars, or the gates in Freelancer, although there are obvious differences. Wish there was such a technology in Distant Worlds! (Unless there is?)

      • Mark says:

        Sounds like greatly watered down starlanes. I dont own StarDrive but I think I’d be fine with the concept. It doesn’t sound anywhere near as restrictive as traditional starlanes because it would not force land-based strategic thinking into a space game which IMO is the real downside of having fixed-starlanes as the only FTL method.

        • Vendor-Lazarus says:

          Hi, it’s me again!! (Don’t worry, I’m just joking^^)

          I do own StarDrive and though it was clumsily implemented in that game the concept itself it a great middle ground and was one of the good things that came of it.

          I think it would actually enhance the strategic layer.
          Greater defense and reinforcements within one’s own territory while forcing you to observe and plan your own incursion into enemy space.

          I’m starting to like this idea more and more.


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