Starpoint Gemini Warlords is hard to pin down as far as what exactly it should be in one genre. At first glance it’s a space-sim RPG. You fly through the universe, interacting with the distinct factions of Gemini through means of diplomacy and/or aggression as the situation and your skills dictate. However, it doesn’t end there. Once the battle is over, there’s alliances, space stations, and the ownership of sectors to consider. You won’t just be exploring the Gemini system. You’ll be fighting to unify, survive, or conquer it.
It’s this level of multiple interesting angles that puts Starpoint Gemini Warlords on a level far more complex than the games that came before it. We played Starpoint Gemini Warlords at PAX South and have been enjoying it in Steam Early Access since, but there is a lot to unpack here as far as what you can do and how. Luckily, GameWatcher was able to get ahold of Little Green Men Gaming’s Director and CEO, Mario Mikohovic. Mario was kind enough to share with us about how this game expanded so immensely from Starpoint Gemini 2 and how community interaction has built up the game, not to mention launch and post-launch plans for Starpoint Gemini Warlords.
GameWatcher: So Starpoint Gemini is not on its maiden voyage. Starpoint Gemini Warlords is actually the third outing in the series. So what sets Warlords apart from what came before it? Is it a true sequel or more of a spinoff from the numbered entries we’ve seen before?
Mario Mikohovic: So Starpoint Gemini Warlords actually began as a spinoff. As such it actually has very little to do with what happened in Starpoint Gemini 2. That said, we’ve always had very good community engagement. There was a somewhat infamous wishlist we posted for people to offer new ideas or things they’d like to see. When we started it, we thought we’d work on few ideas, but it actually came out to a mountain of them which were worked into the game. It added about a year of development time on as we sorted through ideas, picked out the best and implemented them into the game. At one point we actually had to cut off new ideas, put a foot down, and say we were just going to work with what we had from that point on. From where we were, Warlords has evolved into a much greater thing that could be formerly considered a “Starpoint Gemini 3,” but at this point, we enjoy the title for what it is.
GameWatcher: Warlords is said to give more direct control to the player in control of their ship in a deeper sort of action-RPG system than previous games, but you don’t necessarily lose out on controlling fleets like you could before. How has this translated over to Warlords? Why the transition away from the style of the first two games?
Mikohovic: A lot of the transition from what we had in the original games came from the aforementioned community engagement. Our fans were very vocal about what they wanted to see as they played through early builds. For instance, they would take their ships into sectors, battle all these enemies, and win. That led some of them asking, “What if I could conquer this sector and control it?” They wanted some kind of permanence for the victories. So that pushed us to move towards creating opportunities for defeating enemies in an area, establishing a base, creating light building sim elements for base and structure management, and including likewise light 4X elements of claiming parts of the universe and building your faction up. There are lots of examples of these things that we chose to pursue as a result of community interaction that made Warlords into something very much bigger than it was initially.
GameWatcher: There are two main ways to play Warlords. On one end you have free-form exploration and interaction with the universe. On the other end you have a structured story. So where do we find ourselves in the story of Warlords?
Mikohovic: So this game takes place after a few years after Starpoint Gemini 2, although you won’t be playing as any of the heroes from that game. Instead, you take on the role of a captain from the Earth sector heading out into the Gemini system. They had believed that this empire was out there and wanted to leave to find it, but when they got there, it was destroyed by the group of freedom fighters in Starpoint Gemini 2. All that was left was these factions with different areas of control. So it’s on the player to make their way in this somewhat untamed area however they can, building up resources and alliances or just conquering and taking it if they can. These factions know you came to Gemini expecting to find the old empire and so that leaves them suspicious of you. You have to convince them that you’re not trying to reestablish what was destroyed or you have to snuff them out before they become a problem to you.
GameWatcher: There’s a bit to choose from at the top of this game. You have a selection of choices in determining your ship and captain. That said, outside of attributes, strengths and weaknesses, are there other implications in your early choices? Does it affect how the story goes or how factions might react to you in either story or free form?
Mikohovic: Your early choices won’t directly affect how the various states respond to you in terms of sheer story, but playstyles create a branching path where if you select certain passive or aggressive attributes, it will be in your best interest to play that way and the universe and its factions will act for or against you. You’ll play to your strengths and the game will respond accordingly. It could be peaceful and diplomatic or it could be brutal and aggressive, but how your story plays out and how Gemini responds to you will depend on how you engage it.
GameWatcher: This approach to rising from the bottom up in a hostile territory allows you to sort of build yourself up to something grand, but not every player’s journey will be the same, yes? Can we have an example of how playstyles cause paths to branch out in the Warlords story?
Mikohovic: Well, let’s say you take up a ship and attributes that favor stealth gameplay. You work your way through a sector accomplishing your mission with those stealth and cloaking abilities and as a result, you don’t really draw as many open hostilities towards yourself. That leaves windows open for diplomacy and even alliances later on. On the other end, if you take up ship and captain attributes that favor a barbarian method, you’re going to have strength in combat. Even as just one ship, you’ll have what you need to aggressively attack, destroy, and conquer and it’s absolutely something you’ll want to use to your advantage. That said, the style draws a lot of negative attention. Factions are going to see that and band together to resist you. It will make the later game a deeper tactical challenge when it comes to fending off these combined enemies and keeping you’ve conquered intact. That’s general, but it’s just one way the story branches based on how your playstyle forces it to respond.
GameWatcher: When it comes to the freeform exploration, players have this kind of canvas in that mode where they can do as they please without the boundaries of the story to guide them. It certainly sounds appealing for a untethered play session, but is there else anything out of the ordinary there that players might not find in the regular story mode?
Mikohovic: Let me start by saying the universe map in Warlords is about 9 times the size of Starpoint Gemini 2. We’ve got a lot of great things in the story mode, but by the time you’re done with it, you will have been to about 20 percent of the overall map. Some factions won’t even be met in the story. The free form mode allows for a massive addition of exploration after you’ve finished the story in which you can go wherever you please in this much more enormous setting. You’ll see things you wouldn’t see and be able to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. It would be difficult, but you can conquer the whole map if you really want to. Moreover, there’s more opportunity for certain things that you see in the story mode. For example, there’s a super weapon that comes into play when you really need it in the story. It takes time and a lot of resources, but you can build it in free form and go around… let’s say “pacifying” planets with it as you please.
GameWatcher: As the finish line draws near, what happens afterwards? Are there any distinct post-launch plans for Little Green Men Gaming following the game’s launch?
Mikohovic: Yes, we have a lot of ideas based on the things that our players have wanted to see. This includes the opportunity for new DLC, ships, missions, and more. In the past, we created an entire 60-plus hour story remake of the original Starpoint Gemini as free DLC for Starpoint Gemini 2. That’s the kind of dedication we put into this. I don’t know if we’d create another six-month long project like that for Starpoint Gemini Warlords, but we’ve certainly been talking and plotting our next steps. It also depends on what our players and community want to see next, but we have an enormous amount of opportunity here and even when we cross the release date, we’re excited to continue to expand upon this universe.
GameWatcher: There’s opportunity for your fanbase to expand this universe too. Steam Workshop has already been approved for Starpoint Gemini Warlords, so we can expect to see some mods for this game. Is the team active in nurturing the mod community? What kind of mods can we expect to see out of the game?
Mikohovic: We’ve already seen a great deal of activity in the community so far. We actually had a mod contest for Warlords earlier this year and there was a great response to it. Modders created new content based on Star Trek and Star Wars, new missions, buildings, and more. We’re very interested in keeping the modding sector going. We encourage the community to reach out to us if they have any problems implementing anything. It’s our engine after all and we know how it works best, so we can usually help modders along to finishing their projects cleanly with a little assistance. For me personally, I think I’d love to see a modder bring the Star Wars Empire Star Destroyer to Warlords. We had a modder do that in one of our previous games. He used the model in another game and in Starpoint Gemini 2, in our engine, it just looked fantastic. I can’t recall who did it, but I would be thrilled to see something like that again for Warlords.
With so much going on and so much on the way, Starpoint Gemini Warlords has the promise to be a gift that will keep on giving well after players have conquered or pacified all of Gemini in the story. Little Green Men Gaming is a studio that listens to their vocal community and goes out of their way to deliver what fans are looking for and this game seems to be an amalgam of love on the part of developers and players alike that will continue to grow even after it comes out of Early Access.
If you’d like to learn more, get involved or check out the Early Access for Starpoint Gemini Warlords, head over to the Steam page and official website for the game.
To get the latest news and updates on Starpoint Gemini Warlords, you can follow the game on it’s Twitter and Facebook pages.