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Dangerous Dealings: Sol Trader

Procedural history in sandbox space

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.

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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.

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About the Author

Adam Smith

Former Deputy Editor

Adam wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2011-2018, rising through the ranks to become its Deputy Editor. He now works at Larian Studios on Baldur's Gate 3.