Who are Solid Clouds? Could you briefly outline the studios origins? In 2010 Solid Clouds’ founder and CEO, Stefán Gunnarsson, tired of waiting for someone else to create the game he wanted to play, a game that would unite the 4X experience of games like Civilization and Master of Orion with the MMORTS experience of games like Travian and Tribal Wars. To prepare for the project Gunnarsson simply decided to first finish a degree in Computer Science, did so and in late 2013 founded Solid Clouds for the express purpose of creating a 4XMMO.
The studio has a spine firmly entrenched in the history of CCP. What elements of the EVE developer do you hope to integrate into Solid Clouds culture? There are a lot of qualities we wish to emulate from CCP. CCP is an Icelandic pioneer and if not for CCP the software development environment in Iceland would be massively different. Like them we want to create something new, something lasting, something inspiring for the next generation of software companies. We too wish to be trailblazers.
What platform are you using to develop Starborne and which technological barriers must you overcome to realize your vision? To realize a 4XMMO like Starborne the map needs to be around 1.2 million hexes of vibrant detailed graphics and accommodating around 10.000 concurrent users. Seamlessly rendering a universe of this magnitude while also handling the server load generated by a game of this size have been our most challenging hurdles. Thankfully Unity3D provides us with most of the tools we need and our team of programmers are experienced hurdlers!
Would you briefly outline the Icelandic development scene and what about it makes it conducive to making deeply immersive virtual worlds? The development scene in Iceland is quite vibrant! The big ones are of course CCP with its titles of EVE Online, Gunjack and EVE Valkyre and Plain Vanilla who makes the world’s favorite quiz game, QuizUp. We also have indie titles like Sumer which just successfully finished a kickstarter and is greenlit for Steam. Ceres was released last year on Steam and Radiant Games just won a Nordic Game Award for Box Island.
The immersion that accompanies Icelandic games probably stems from our rich storytelling history that began with the medieval prose narratives collectively known as the Icelandic Sagas. Our producer, Hrafnkell Óskarsson (with a B.A. in history and largely responsible for the lore of EVE Online), is creating the backdrop and stories for the world of Starborne. Some of these stories are already available and found in the lore section of www.starborne.com.
The studio’s ambition is to be the leading MMORTS company in the future. Apart from creating a stellar gaming experience, what areas do you believe you need to develop to make that leap?
First and foremost playing a game of Starborne needs to be a unique experience and for that we need to successfully marry the MMORTS concept with the 4X concept. For that we need to enable players to participate in a world that evolves only as they themselves dictate. To witness sovereign evolution as borders grow and shrink, to see empires rise and fall, alliances form and sunder. And not only to witness but to actively participate and instigate these events. When players emerge from a game of Starborne, win or lose, the experience should be that of having participated in an epic historical event.
What words of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring developer / studio looking to break into the ever shifting industry landscape? Measure twice, cut once.
Who are the developers you look to for inspiration? We remember awesome designers like Sid Meier (Civilization) and Steve Barcia (Master of Orion) and pay the legendary studio Microprose our due respects as well as current 4X torchbearers Firaxis and Paradox. Also, we consider the Travian team to have done pioneering work. We are innovating on ideas and proudly acknowledge that.