Flagships are my solution to the problem of blending an RTS game with a tactical rogue-lite campaign. During the campaign, the player commands a fleet of ships and fights battles against enemy fleets or bases. The problem I’ve realized with the old version of the game is that it was difficult to mix the tactical fleet battles with RTS style base building in a satisfying way; either the player could just ignore base building, or full base building would allow the player to build up a massive army in each node, making the starting fleet insignificant. My solution to this balance problem is the Flagship, a modified version of the Interstellar Union’s Command Ship that can be upgraded with specific modules between battles.

Flagship Modules

Flagships can be upgraded with their own weapons, but also with refineries for gathering resources and shipyards for producing units, however they are much more limited than the traditional base building methods. For one, flagships can only be upgraded between battles with modules that the player finds or buys during the campaign. This makes them play more of a supporting role in battles and adds an extra dimension of progression to the campaign. For a rogue-lite campaign, this progression is especially important, as the player needs to be offered new and exciting upgrades for their fleet throughout the campaign. Additionally, the fact that flagships have limited room for modules means both that the player will have to make strategic decisions on which modules to equip, and that we can add some exceptionally powerful and interesting modules without completely imbalancing the game.


Speed Boost Ability

One of the main roles of flagships going forward, is to support the player’s fleet rather than fighting directly. Empyrean Frontier is an RTS game, so the primary focus is on commanding an army of units rather than a single powerful flagship. To this end, the flagship will have a variety of “Ability Modules” that each enable a specific targetable ability that will buff friendly units or provide some other kind of support ability (debuffing enemy units, calling in reinforcements, creating environmental effects, etc.) These abilities should be a good way to give the player a satisfying felling of progression during the campaign, unlocking powerful and fun abilities. The limited availability of these abilities (each ability has an associated energy cost for the flagship) is also intended to make their use more of a strategic decision.

The first of these abilities is the relatively simple Speed Boost, pictured above. To use this ability, the player chooses a target area and all friendly units within the effect radius gain a temporary speed buff, which is illustrated with a new icon that appears around all affected units.

What’s Next:

Right now, I’m working on Steam integration for the coming Early Access launch, but I can also talk a bit about the next big planned feature: Bosses.

In addition to adding many new modules for the player to use, one of the interesting possibilities that the flagship system allows for is the idea of enemy bosses. These would be extremely powerful enemy flagships with their own unique modules and abilities, using scripted attack behavior. Players will have to use their entire fleet to defeat one of these bosses, and you can expect bosses to have telegraphed attacks which the player can avoid, similar to an RPG boss. The current plan is for each of the game’s factions (there will be a variety of new pirate and corporate factions) to have their own unique flagship, which fits that faction’s combat style. At the end of a campaign zone, the player will be pitted against whichever faction they have the most negative relationship with. If the player successfully defeats the enemy boss, they will gain access to a new flagship type for future campaigns.



The campaign for Empyrean Frontier follows a fleet of persistent units as it moves across the known galaxy. At each node, the player will encounter some kind of random event and be presented with several dialogue options, often leading to a tactical RTS battle with an enemy fleet. Sometimes these battles will lead to a full base building skirmish against the enemy AI.

After each successful battle, players will gain ore to repair their ships or credits to purchase new ones at the neutral space stations placed throughout the map. In order to defeat the tougher enemy fleets at the end of the campaign, the player will need to grow their fleet and preserve their existing units.

Headline Banner

The campaign shares some of the same mechanics that solar system skirmishes have (a persistent fleet of units that travel from one battle to the next) but here it is in a more structured form, with a turn based component in the campaign map.

Headline Banner

Headline Banner

The alpha version of the game including the campaign is available at itch.io which will grant access to a Steam key once the game arrives on Steam (we have already successfully passed Steam Greenlight.)


Now that the last of the main game modes have been implemented, I’ll be able to focus on smaller, more frequent updates adding more content. I’m currently working on adding more event types to the campaign, as well as a unit veterancy system.

Headline Banner

Empyrean Frontier has finally made its way onto Steam Greenlight. The game has come a long way since the previous pre-alpha demos and I’m glad to announce the greenlight campaign, an alpha trailer, and a new demo.

The new demo includes a full tutorial and 2 skirmish maps that are playable as the Empire faction (the Union is unlocked in the full Alpha release.) Since the last pre-alpha demo, the game has seen a long list of improvements, including engine and graphical improvements, a better GUI, and greatly improved enemy AI.

Empyrean Frontier Alpha Demo

The game is also available for alpha purchase through itch.io and the official website. The full game includes additional content (play as both factions, solar system conquest mode, and additional maps) and will grant access to all future updates and a Steam key if/when the game arrives on Steam.



Below is a list of current and planned features for the game.


Current Features:


Two Unique Playable Factions

Intuitive Control Scheme

  • Draw custom formations
  • Full featured RTS Interface

Intelligent AI

  • AI Strategically reacts to player actions
  • Tactical AI formations
  • No resource or vision cheats

Command Massive Fleets

  • Battle with hundreds of ships
  • 16+ unit types
  • Base building
  • Superweapons

Conquer an Empire

  • Fight for territory in a real time campaign


Alpha Roadmap


Game Features:

    • Unit Upgrades
    • Unit Veterancy
    • Random Map Generator

(also more preset maps with support for more players)

    • Additional Unit types

advanced fighter groups, more building modules, and maybe hero units

    • Additional Unit Abilities

a few units already have active or passive effects, but I intend to add more, as well as a better GUI for displaying passive abilities (tractor beams for example already apply a firing rate debuff, but the interface doesn’t notify the player)

Game Modes:

    • “Quick Start” System Skirmish

solar system skirmishes where each player starts already in control of a preset territory

    • Procedural Campaign

longer campaign similar to Solar System skirmishes but the player takes a single fleet through a series of procedurally generated missions

    • Story Campaign

traditional RTS campaign with scripted missions (might be cut in favor of Procedural Campaign)

    • Arcade

extra game modes such as tower defense, tug of war, wave defense, and others (possibly with a level editor)

Engine Features:

    • Save/Load Games
    • Rebindable Hotkeys
    • Improved Effects

better explosions, particles, engine trail effects

    • More Destruction Animations

larger units will have more detailed destruction effects

    • Improved Movement/Pathfinding
    • Overall Graphical Improvements
    • AI Improvements

the easy/normal skirmish AI are in a pretty good state, but there are a few extra features I’d like to add for hard AI, as well as improving the solar system skirmish AI

In Empyrean Frontier, each faction has the ability to build a superweapon in the very late stages of the game. The Interstellar Union’s superweapon takes the form of a gigantic missile capable of dealing massive area of effect damage and breaking through even the strongest fortifications.


Like the Empire’s Super Laser, the Super Missile has two different attack modes to choose from. The Cluster Missile deals area of effect damage over a single large area of space, while the FTL Missile deals higher damage along a single line.

Cluster Missile:

When cluster missile mode is activated, the super missile loads 24 smaller rockets onto the front of the main missile and accelerates towards the target area. Once the missile reaches the target, the main rocket self-destructs and the cluster missiles split off and explode over a large area of space.

Cluster Missile

FTL Missile:

The second superweapon setting functions much like the empire’s super laser, dealing heavy damage in a straight line. When this mode is activated, the missile accelerates to light speed, annihilating anything in it’s path, even large moons.

FTL Missile

My goal in designing the new superweapon was to create a weapon that was different enough to distinguish itself from the existing superlaser while fulfilling roughly the same role in the game. The Union’s cluster missile and the superlaser’s wide beam mode are both intended to be used against large groups of enemy units, although they differ in how they apply their damage. The superlaser can technically achieve a larger area of effect if units are lined up and it’s more difficult to dodge, however, the cluster missile’s damage is concentrated over a single large area, making it more useful in actual gameplay for destroying a single clump of units. The secondary modes for each of the superweapons (FTL missile / concentrated laser beam) are essentially the same ability, just with different visual effects. Since this ability is the only way to destroy colonized moons, and given the importance of those moons in the lategame, I figured the fairest way was to give both factions the same tool.

Thanks for reading, and remember there’s still a couple days left to vote for Indie of the Year so check out some of the images and videos, or the early demo, I’d love to have your support if you like the game.

Indie of the Year Awards

IndieDB: http://www.indiedb.com/games/empyrean-frontier/news/new-super-weapon

Since the last update I’ve been working mainly on finishing up the majority of the ships and building modules for the second playable faction, the Interstellar Union. This faction shares some of the same unit types as the first faction, the Empire, but also has some key differences. In the game’s lore, the Union is a nomadic faction occupying a number of star systems on the outskirts of the Empire’s more developed territory. Instead of building space stations around a central command center, the union uses the Command Ship, a more mobile vessel that has a limited number of upgrade nodes on which to build modules such as shipyards and refineries.

Union faction ships

To allow for faster expansion, union players start the game with a command ship that comes equipped with a Capital Shipyard module, which allows the construction of additional command ships, as well as slow moving defense platforms and, at higher tech levels it can produce various combat cruisers.

Defense Platforms

Some of the new ships closely resemble those found in the other faction’s arsenal, with minor differences. (For instance, the union’s green “shotgun” lasers send out roughly the same number of bolts per minute as the empire’s Gatling lasers, meaning they both fulfill the anti-fighter role.) When designing the ships, I did also try to keep some similarities in the overall shape of ships that fill the same combat role. For instance, the anti-fighter frigates are both tall and thin, tractor beam frigates are round, and anti-frigate frigates are longer, like a traditional ship. The reasoning behind this is that setting a distinct “look” for each type of unit should make it easier for the player to differentiate ships in battle and plan for the correct unit composition.

Union and Imperial frigates

(In addition to pushing or pulling enemy ships, tractor beams now also apply a debuff to enemy units, reducing their speed and rate of fire, making them useful in weakening and focusing down valuable enemy ships.)

Cruiser battle

All cruisers can be customized with a variety of upgradable weapon modules. The main cruisers in each faction have 8-10 weapon slots and special front and rear nodes for utility modules. The union however, has 2 extra cruisers; the artillery cruiser, which comes equipped with a long range missile launcher, and the drone cruiser, a fast attack ship that releases a swarm of destructive drones at short range. Each of these smaller cruisers has a single upgrade node that can be used to specialize in the ship’s primary attack (a range increase for the artillery cruiser, and a speed boost for the short ranged drone cruiser) or the player might choose to add a secondary weapon for the ship to fulfill a more general role. Hopefully this choice in upgrades will provide for interesting strategic decisions and allow a variety of playstyles.

Light Cruisers in action

I intend to start a Greenlight campaign soon, but for now I still have some polishing to do as well as improvements to the AI, and I’m also finishing up the superweapon for the new faction.

IndieDB: http://www.indiedb.com/games/empyrean-frontier/news/faction-overview

Lately one of the big features I’ve been preparing for the eventual release is the solar system game mode. There are a lot of other improvements to the interface, the AI, and some graphical updates, but I’ve been holding off on posting an update until I had a really big feature ready. The solar system game mode, which I’ve shown a little of previously, is more of a 4X/RTS hybrid than the standard skirmish mode and the goal is for it to provide a longer, more replayable experience. As it’s getting closer to the paid release, this game mode is one of the features that I won’t be adding to the free demo, however when the time comes, there will be an updated demo with the other graphical and GUI improvements that have been added to the game.

Game Mode Selection

The basic premise is that the player controls fleets (collections of regular ships contained in a single icon) and attempts to conquer planets and create space outposts in order to control territory, which then grants the player greater income.

Solar System View

When two opposing fleets meet, this action creates a battle event which is marked on the map. Since all parts of the game take place in real time, each player has until the battle countdown finishes to send nearby fleets to join in the battle. Once the countdown reaches 0, the main system is paused and the player goes to the newly created subsystem in order to fight the battle as a traditional RTS skirmish. Here the player has sent 2 fleets into a battle against a single enemy fleet.

Fleet Battle

Battle systems are randomly generated based on the surrounding space in the solar system map. If a battle takes place in an asteroid field or a nebula, the environment of the battle system will reflect that. (Here you can see a few of the graphical improvements that I’ve been working on since the last update.) Once the battle is over, the winning player gains ownership of the now inactive battle marker, which grants control over the surrounding space for a short time.

Fleet Battle part 2

In addition to the fleet vs fleet fights, battle events can also take place in planets or player-created space bases. These permanent points of interest are important because they can be upgraded with 4 kinds of prebuilt bases: fortresses, shipyards, trade ports, and research facilities. Like fleets, each of these base icons represents a group of standard units that will appear within the subsystem. Each base contains a Command Center and various other building modules, depending on which type of base it is. Some of these bases have additional effects, such as the shipyard which allows the production of new fleets, the trade port which generates additional income, and the research facility which raises the starting tech level in that subsystem.

Prebuilt Bases

Above: fortress bases, shown at levels 1, 2, and 3, provide a strong defenders advantage should enemy fleets attempt to attack this planet.

See also:


The second version of the demo is now available for download.

Download now from IndieDB:
Empyrean Frontier Pre Alpha Demo

What’s new in this demo:

There is now a Game Options menu where you can set various control and gameplay related settings. These new options include:
– left/right click settings for building placement
– inverted scrolling option
– edge scrolling option
– scroll, zoom, and rotation speed sliders
– color replacement mode
– health bar, energy bar, rally line, and control group number display settings

Gameplay Options Menu

There are now distinct animated cursors for Select, Move, Attack, Attack-Move, Formation-Move, Repair, and Sell.

The Easy AI will now wait longer before attacking and will attack with a smaller force.

The in-game GUI has been scaled down to take up less screen space, plus new buttons have been added in the bottom left panel for various action commands and for using control groups.

Skirmish and GUI

I’ve also updated the tutorials with some better text boxes and explanations of some things that weren’t originally covered such as camera rotations, plus I’ve added a 3rd tutorial that covers some extra concepts including the formation tool.


There’s also a lot of optimization behind the scenes, specifically the fog of war is now much more responsive and the game runs faster with large maps. There are also notable changes to some of the unit AI that makes fighters more effective and makes them look more interesting in combat.

See also:


Command Ship Construction

One of the big features I’ve been working on is adding a 2nd playable faction to the game. I think it’s important that the new faction should be significantly different from the existing one and to that end, the main difference between the two factions is the way the build bases. Instead of building sprawling space stations like the Empire, the Interstellar Union uses massive spaceships called command ships as their mobile bases. Other buildings are built as modules that connect to one or more of the 12 available building nodes on each command ship.

Command Ships

Unlike space station modules, these ship modules do not have any outward connecting points, so once all 12 building nodes are occupied, the Union player must construct a new command ship in order to continue building. This is accomplished by using the capital shipyard module, a tier 2 module that take up an entire side (6 nodes) of the command ship. This module is able to construct additional command ships, and eventually will be able to build smaller combat-orientated cruisers as well. While the capital shipyard is unlocked at tech level 2, same as the Empire’s Mobile Command Ship, the current plan is that during skirmish play the Union player will start with a Command Ship which already includes a single capital shipyard, making it possible to expand before upgrading to tier 2.

Command Ship Construction

Like the Command Center, the new Command Ship also gains a visual upgrade with each tech level, so that a player can visually determine what tech they or their enemies have unlocked.

Tech Level Visuals

Overall, the Union is planned to be a more mobile faction that specializes in advanced fighters and large cruisers, with less emphasis on medium sized frigates. I’m still working on creating models for all the combat units, as well as the rest of the base modules, but for now, I plan to also work on an updated demo with some better gameplay/input options and more sound and music assets.

See also:


The first pre-alpha demo for Empyrean Frontier is finally available for download. The demo contains a skirmish mode with 2 1v1 maps and 2 AI settings, as well as 2 tutorial missions to explain how to play. There is also a listing of all game controls within the options menu and a graphics settings menu for customizing settings for your computer.

Download now from IndieDB:
Empyrean Frontier Pre Alpha Demo

• The basic skirmish works much like other RTS games you might have played. Build up your base, construct an army, and destroy all enemy buildings (space station modules and lunar colonies) in order to win. Currently there is a choice of two playable 1v1 maps and two difficulty levels for AI opponents. AI opponents play with only the information that would be available to a human player, and currently don’t recieve any extra bonuses. (You can play in observer mode to watch how the AI plays.)

Skirmish Gameplay
Skirmish Gameplay

Skirmish Gameplay
Watching AI Players in observer mode

Additional Notes:
• The current version of the game includes one playable faction and a only the basic skirmish mode. Most ships and station modules are present in the game, although additional content will be added as development progresses and the current state of the game is not representative of the final product. Feedback on the demo (bugs, gameplay concerns, etc.) is very much appreciated.

Minimum System Requirements:
• -Operating System: Windows
• -Graphics Card: Directx10 compatible card (PCs with integrated graphics cards might not be able to run the game)

Updated SuperWeapon:

The new version of this structure performs the same role as the old one, but the main difference is that we now have a much wider laser beam, allowing for more realistic better visual effects. When activated, the cannon now fires a single energy beam, which will continue until it collides with a planet or runs off the edge of the map, dealing heavy damage to any units in its path. I’m finally finishing the process of replacing all of the old placeholder models. For this update, I present the most complicated of these, the super weapon, which was first added more than a year ago. Since then I’ve significantly changed the base building system, allowing for much larger and more impressive models.

Unit control GUI

The interface still allows switching between two different attack styles: a wide beam for damaging fleets of spaceships, or a focused beam for destroying large targets, including small moons.

Unit control GUI

A much smaller version of the wave cannon structure is also available as a base defense.

Unit control GUI

Other Notable Changes:
– improved skirmish AI
– added several music tracks to the game

What’s next?
I’m afraid I’m significantly behind schedule of where I had planned to be with development, and I apologize for that. My next goal is still to finish up a playable demo for testing and feedback purposes. The last of the major content additions before the game gets to that stage is now complete, and the main things I’ll be working on next are creating several tutorial missions and making a useful options menu for adjusting graphics settings.