Earlier this year, developer Petroglyph and publisher LucasArts released Star Wars: Empire at War--the finest strategy game to date that bears the Star Wars license. Now, the teams that created the original game are looking to expand on it with Forces of Corruption, a new expansion pack that will introduce the all-new playable Underworld faction, as well as add new tweaks and additions to the existing Rebel and Imperial forces. Lead designer Chris Rubyor explains.
Intergalactic GreedBy Chris Rubyor
Lead Designer, Petroglyph
After spending countless hours refining the powers of "corruption," we're ready to share some of the sinister details that make the Underworld faction unique to Star Wars: Empire at War. Before I get started, here's a quick overview of our new playable faction. The Underworld is comprised of a network of thieves, mercenaries, and some of the most corrupt bounty hunters in the galaxy. They've been brought together under the will of Tyber Zann, a crime lord who after many years in the spice mines of Kessel, has been unleashed on the Galaxy. His goal is a simple one--to take back his empire that had been seized by the Hutt cartel and to gain control of all criminal activities in the galaxy.
Before Empire at War shipped, we had many long discussions with LucasArts about the expansion pack and whether or not to build off the sides we already had or do something totally new. We came up with a few ideas, such as reigniting the Clone Wars, exploring what happens to the Galaxy post-Endor, and so on, but the concept that really seemed to resonate among everyone was corruption and being able to play with an underworld element. So that's what we went with.
Having to start from scratch let us design a totally different experience for Empire at War. We added more than 35 new units, all-new special abilities, and new gameplay mechanics via corruption. We were even able to incorporate a few twists, like offering Clone Wars-era units upgraded with weapons from the current timeline. This really helps the Underworld faction feel different, and it gives them a play style unique to Empire at War.
Since corruption is always present in the fiction of the Star Wars universe, we really wanted the player to experience it as both a playing style and also an overall mentality throughout the game. In the strategic, galactic layer, corruption gives the Underworld huge flexibility in how the faction moves, spies, and makes tactical decisions, primarily through economy, enhanced travel, and strategic manipulation of both the Rebel and Imperial factions.
The primary purpose of corruption is to generate cash, and it allows access to black-market technology. Essentially, it works like a mining facility, extorting a percentage of credits from planetary income generated during a galactic day. The Underworld requires large quantities of cash for pretty much everything, and corruption is the primary way for it to generate income.
Unlike the other factions, the Underworld has no real technology tree--so this faction doesn't gradually research new-and-improved units and buildings. The production of units is simply based on the proper ground structures and space-station size. This may seem like insanity, but after all, the seedy criminals of the Underworld don't need to research technology. They just buy it.
This leads us to the black market. Since the Underworld has no tech tree, units don't come equipped with special powers. Instead, these abilities must be purchased through the black market, usually at a high price. So if you want to equip your Vengeance frigates with cloaking technology, you need to buy the tech from a black market on a corrupted Imperial world. If you want access to carbonite warheads for your missile-attack launcher, you'll need to buy the technology from the Rebel black market.
Corruption also involves mobility and sabotage. When corruption is established on a specific planet, the corrupted world will form a "web" with another nearby corrupted system, creating a unique hyperspace corridor specific to Underworld players. This gives the Underworld faster travel times between worlds, which helps avoid any entanglements that may be waiting.
Sabotage lets the Underworld selectively choose which structures and ships to "decommission." Of course, like everything in the Star Wars universe, this ability costs cash, but it can be extremely effective when targeting specific worlds to occupy.
The final components of corruption are unique attributes that have a positive effect for Rebel and Imperial factions. For example, on the strategic layer, enemy players may notice their ships and vehicles can be built slightly more quickly, that their smugglers will no longer expire, or even that their units produced at cantinas will cost a lot less on corrupted planets. So for the opposing factions, we've built "incentives" to keeping the elements of corruption around...even if it's only temporary.
Corruption gives the members of the Underworld a new and unique way to play and influence events in their quest for complete galactic domination. Of course, since we're building Empire at War to be a balanced real-time strategy game, there will definitely be powerful counters for the Rebel and Imperial factions to thwart the Underworld's efforts. But we'll save that for another update.