Dangerous Dealings: Sol Trader

I enjoy looking at things in Elite: Dangerous but, the occasional dogfight and docking sequence aside, I’ve not particularly enjoyed doing things. Space sure is spectacular at times but I don’t feel any particular attachment to my ship or the places in which I spend my time pew-pewing and pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything. There’s an awful lot to see but none of it feels particularly lived in.

Enter Sol Trader, a top-down space game described as a fusion of “Elite, Asteroids & Dwarf Fortress”. Do you crave convincing characters in a world that has two centuries of procedurally generated history? I do. Time to start kicking.

Developer Chris Parsons is an industry veteran, with four years work at Elixir studios to his name. Those years included work on Evil Genius and Republic: The Revolution, which I remember with fond dismay as an almost unplayable construct made up of the greatest of all possible things. In an alternate timeline, it’s a game that has been remade, shattering the limits of what is possible in a simulated city.

But I digress. Sol Trader is the game Parsons has always wanted to make, which goes some way toward explaining why he’s been working on it for the last three years. He’s hoping to have it finished by the middle of the year but needs money for living costs while he wraps up development. That explains the miniature £20,000 goal. There are several big stretch goals, including a £250,000 target that would allow for the addition of on-foot exploration and interaction. That would be lovely but I’d be quite happy to play the proposed £20,000 game.

I’m going to quote four short paragraphs from the Kickstarter page and if you don’t want to play Sol Trader when you’ve read them, I’m afraid we can’t be friends anymore. That’s just the way it is.

It features a complex procedural history generator, inspired by the adventure and legends mode in Dwarf Fortress. Each new game is already two centuries old, with a living history full of characters that are born, live and die before you even exist.

When you create a character in this world, you face the same choices as all the computer-controlled citizens did. The decisions you make in your character’s early life set your starting skills and attributes, and your family connections and business contacts.

There is no set story. The game generates two centuries of characters, events and interactions to set the scene: as a player, you are born into this world and form relationships in it before the game starts.

You’ll then be able to create your own legend within this world: explore the known (and unknown) solar system, trade goods, run missions, leverage your contacts, and avenge members of your family as you see fit.

There are still 27 days to go but the start has been slow and around £19,000 is needed. Presumably that’s because not many people have spotted the campaign page yet, or they skimmed across it and didn’t read the four paragraphs I’ve pasted up there.

The alternative is that I have to stop being friends with the entire world and that would be very sad.

From this site

35 Comments

  1. Antsy says:

    Into The Stars is another spacey Kickstarter that looks interesting.

  2. padger says:

    But you know the UK tax regime doesn’t really benefit a sol trader, he should probably move to a Ltd company setup.

    (SORRY I DID A BUSINESS JOKE. /grownup)

  3. Morcane says:

    I’ll just wait for SPAZ 2.

  4. mukuste says:

    I just don’t see anything that particularly stands out to me here. I’m sorry.

  5. jeeger says:

    Eh, these dwarf-fortress-likes (or maybe DOBA? Dwarf Organising Battle Arena) always aim for the stars, and always seem to fail in some significant way. I’d be very glad if this was successful, but I’ll hold off on the kickstarter for now.

    • Chris Parsons says:

      I’m really hoping to make it work – it’s ambitious, but most of the code is already there and I’m confident I can deliver something that people will find lots of fun.

      Thanks for your interest!

  6. melnificent says:

    Sorry, not going to touch a kickstarter/early access unless it’s in a bundle. Burned by spacebase and Elite.

    Good luck though and I’ll buy it on release

  7. RaveTurned says:

    In that alternate timeline, my alter-ego kickstarted that Republic: The Revolution remake up the wazoo, based on the sheer promise of the original game. I bet he’s loving it. Lucky bastard.

    • Asokn says:

      R:TR was the first game I ever got really excited about prior to its release, I was actually pretty active on fan forums for the game at the time. It was such a good idea and then such a poor game, I’m surprised that no-one has ever had a go at doing it properly because there’s nothing wrong with the concept.

      • Chris Parsons says:

        I’ve had some ideas in this game space before, and almost started one or two, but I’m not sure whether it would be complicated legally because of being part of the team of the original game, the rights for which are owned by someone else now. I know what I’d like my next project to be after Sol Trader, so perhaps I’ll figure it out for project #3 :)

  8. Chris Parsons says:

    Hello there – I’m the developer and am happy to answer questions people have!

    • Smashbox says:

      Why are you making the game I’ve been dreaming about for years?

    • salattu says:

      One game sprang to mind when I but glimpsed the image in the article. I got a hankering to play Space Rangers 2 just reading the description of your game in the second paragraph.

      How would you compare your vision to the Space Rangers series, assuming you know them?

      • Chris Parsons says:

        Funnily enough I didn’t know those games – looks like I’ve got some retro gaming fun ahead of me, assuming I can find them! Mine isn’t a strategy game (although there’s plenty of strategising about your choices planned) and it doesn’t have multiple gameplay modes: it’s more of a RPG, set in space with arcade spaceflight. Hope that helps.

    • Continuity says:

      Could you outline key differences and similarities between your game and Escape Velocity Nova?

      • Chris Parsons says:

        Similar, except there’s no fixed story and a full history simulator that will take the place of a linear mission structure. It’s also just set in our Solar System (well, unless I hit stretch goals :), with near-future technology.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      How do the ship controls work? Is it like a cRPG or a twin stick shooter?

      • Chris Parsons says:

        More of a shooter – currently WSAD to move and rotate your ship and space to fire main weapons.

        • Meeker says:

          Can I suggest instead of just keyboard layouts you look at what SPAZ has done with the WASD to move and mouse to control weapons (and targeting) It’s makes a huge difference in space based games and is based on the idea from spaceship controlling games like freespace, freelancer and I assume the mechwarrior series whereby the reliance of fix firing weapons (eg precision based) can be somewhat mitigated by having turreted/arced based weapons.

          While dogfighting/manuevering will never leave combat, I can’t imagine given enough AI on a spaceship, we wouldn’t dedicate some of that computing power to mount some cannons on a slightly pivotable platform now…. (even a few degrees instead of fixed straight) Or if we are controlling capital ship style “boats” it wouldn’t make sense to lock your offensive capabilities to only one ARC or one direction, especially if your slow moving.

          Either way, it might be something you might want to add to your library to play =)

          • Chris Parsons says:

            Nice ideas. I’ve definitely thought about a control system like this – will run some tests to figure out how well it works.

  9. derbefrier says:

    Looks cool hope it gets funded.

  10. Ralphomon says:

    Is this the successor to Escape Velocity I’ve been waiting to for like 15 years?

  11. amcathlan says:

    Sounds great. All games need more DwarfF and dynamic proceduality….is that a word? It is now. Only hitches I see are the slightly Meteorites-esque flight and control, which is popular these days but was never my cup of tea, but I can dealz if it gives me an interesting universe to explore. Will probably back if the campaign doesn’t run out before I get money again.

  12. ffordesoon says:

    It’s the name that might be turning people off, I reckon. The current raft of crowdfunded space games all have names that sound enough like “Sol Trader” that it doesn’t astand out in a crowd.

    I’ll be backing it and telling people about the thing, though, because holy mother of God in heaven I want the game described there.

    • Chris Parsons says:

      If I’m honest, not enough thought went into the name. It kinda stuck early on. I’d probably call it “Sol: Generations” if it was to start over.

  13. Continuity says:

    Reminds me of Escape Velocity Nova. Anyone else?

  14. Tycow says:

    Backed, and backed again! It looks like the perfect game to play on my laptop when travelling around with work (which leads to my question for Chris).

    Will it be offline?