Space Colony Impressions

The developers of Stronghold fast-forward to the future with this strategy game.

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We got a demonstration of Gathering and FireFly Studios' upcoming strategy game, Space Colony, at E3 2003. FireFly is known for its work on the Stronghold series, which was a sort of mix between city building and real-time strategy with castle siege combat. With Space Colony, FireFly takes a different route, combining builder elements with Sims-like personality management, in a futuristic, sci-fi setting.

As the title suggests, the premise of the game is that you manage a space colony business, and you must set up bases on various planets to accomplish specific goals. In some cases, you'll need to build up a certain amount of wealth, while other missions may require you to mine a certain amount of ore. Your bases consist of several different types of components, including crew living areas, various control rooms, mining facilities, and others. Each of the industrial facilities of your base requires a worker to man it, and that's where the personality management aspects of Space Colony come in.

Like real life, everyone you hire for work in Space Colony has a unique personality. Some people get along well with others, and some invariably hate other people. There are about 20 different unique workers in Space Colony, and you'll come to know each of them rather well. Stig, for example, is a Norwegian biker thug, who will work hard if properly motivated, but gets upset if there aren't enough thrills around. Then there's Tammy, a 40-something barfly who loves to talk and socialize, but isn't necessarily the same kind of thrillseeker that Stig is. There's also a pair of Japanese punk girls who work very well together but get extremely upset if you split them up. Another character is a crotchety old man who is great with gadgets but isn't much of a people person. It's your job to find ideal roles for your workers.

As the manager of the colony, it's also your job to manage the happiness of your various workers, and make sure they're working at maximum efficiency to keep funds rolling in and keep up the productivity of your colony. There are also punishment structures like a jail or a psychologist's counseling couch that you can put in if your workers get out of hand, and it's up to you to figure out how to best deal with an unruly worker. Stig for example, might not respond well to counseling, so it's best to just toss him in the jail for a while to calm down if he gets out of line. Tammy on the other hand, might be more ideally suited for counseling. It's probably more effective to manage the needs of your workers before they go crazy, so Space Colony includes a number of different entertainment facilities like discos and zero-gravity rides that can help keep your workers from getting bored.

Aside from managing the construction and layout of your base, and the personalities of your workers, Space Colony adds in the extra challenge of dealing with alien threats on the various planets. You'll have to set aside portions of your budget to building defensive emplacements on your base in case hostile aliens decide to attack you. Some of the game's 24 missions will even require you to create a space hotel as part of your base. This means that tourists will be in your base. They bring in a great deal of money, but your workers tend to hate them as they clog up the base, take up space in entertainment facilities, and use up precious oxygen. You can build attractions like zoos or outer space golf courses to try and keep the tourists from using the entertainment facilities meant for your workers, but either way, having tourists adds another layer of complexity to base management. You'll also have to protect them from the game's 20 different alien species.

Space Colony's 24 missions will be set on a number of different planets, but some later missions will allow you to revisit old planets where you can re-use and expand upon your old base. This gives the game a better sense of continuity, and keeps you from having to start from scratch between every mission. Currently Space Colony is slated to ship for the PC in late summer 2003. We'll bring you more information on the game as it becomes available.

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