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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 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


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:

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.

Updated interface for unit selection:

Most of the information and commands a player needs to manage units are located in the selection bar, located in the lower middle section of the screen. The panel on the right shows a list of icons representing all currently selected unit types and how many of each type are selected. This section also displays the total health and energy levels of all the selected units above. Clicking on one of the portrait icons here will deselect all other types within the current selection, which is designed to allow the player to easily select only certain unit types for special attacks.

Unit control GUI

The left panel contains the colored stance buttons along the top (aggressive, defensive, hold position, and hold fire) and automatically populates the lower section with all abilities available to units within the current selection, in this case some of the selected ships have a speed boost ability, which uses up energy.

Unit control GUI 2

Unit production:

GUI for Production Buildings

Unit production is handled similarly to regular unit control, but makes use of an extra panel on the left side of the screen. Note that the actual buttons for creating units are on the panel to the upper left, while the lower middle panel displays the next 5 units in production and the progress bar for the ship currently under construction. The upper panel also displays the total number of each type of unit in the production queue, since the player can queue up many more than 5 units at a time, however only the first 5 are shown in order. Units can be canceled by right clicking on the portrait in either location. Some of the changes to the production GUI are a result of switching to a pay as you go system for producing units, (like the one in C&C games) as opposed to the model where you have to pay all the resources up front to begin production (as seen in Starcraft.) This way, the player can queue up a very large number of units even with low resources, which should make macro management less stressful.

Finally, in addition to the GUI updates, I’ve made some changes to the graphics engine. Ships are now better lit and contrast better with the background space, plus I’ve added or increased a glowing outline effect to most units to help them stand out even more.

After a lot of testing, I decided a while ago to bring a two resource system back to the game. There are a few reasons for this change, and while I’m hesitant to add any more complexity to the game, some change was necessary. For one, I wanted to add a more gated resource to balance out the un-gated asteroid resource; asteroids are meant to be very common on most maps, which unfortunately also means that there would next to no limit to a player’s potential ore income. The maximum collection rate for the second resource is tied to the number of large planetary bodies, which limits the player’s ability to rapidly strip mine and spam units.

mining base and player owned moons

In summary, there are now 2 different game resources: ore and credits. Most units require a mixture of both ore (obtained from asteroids/scrap or planetary mines) and credits (obtained from scrap harvesting as well as from taxation and trade from planets.) Lower tech units as well as space station modules require primarily metal, while higher tech units and upgrades will require more credits.

scrap metal harvesting

Scrap metal deposits are placed in strategic locations on the map and are also spawned whenever space stations or ships that are frigate class or larger are destroyed.

asteroid mining

Asteroid fields can provide a plentiful source of ore throughout the game.


colony modules

The 4 types of available colony modules and their respective landing ships in the foreground. In addition to their specific roles, all colonies increase the planet or moon’s population over time, leading to a greater commerce rating and more income in credits to the player who owns the planet. These colonies have been in the game for a while, but I’ve recently revamped their appearance and changed a few of their functions.

  • Planetary Cannon: strong base defense (has a limited firing cone which changes direction as the planet rotates)
  • Trade Port: enables trade between planetary bodies (see picture below)
  • Atmosphere Factory: creates a breathable atmosphere if one doesn’t exist, increases population growth rate and grants bonus efficiency to all colonies
  • Mining Colony: provides a supplemental income of ore

trade routes

When the player controls more than one celestial body that has a trade port colony, a trade route is automatically created between them and trade ships are periodically spawned based on each planet’s commerce rating. Trade ships that make it from one planet to another will give the player a moderate sum of credits, however these ships are extremely vulnerable to harassment during transit.

What’s next? I’ve fallen a bit behind where I’d like to be with the game, but I’m still focused on making a playable demo and then going into a paid alpha. Going forward, I’ll be working a lot on improving the skirmish AI, and I intend to also post a smaller update as I finish updating the GUI and the last of the new space station models.

The first improvement in this update is the addition of geometry instancing to the main draw methods. This optimization has greatly increased performance by drawing all units of the same type together, rather than calling each one as if it were a different model. This change is most noticeable when there are a large number of fighter groups, since there can easily be hundreds of individual fighters on screen in a normal game.

optimized fighter groups

I’ve also added exhaust trails behind ships in order to better convey movement and direction of ships. (Plus it frankly makes the game look a lot more interesting.) In addition, thanks to some rewritten movement methods, fighter groups are now able to circle in place when not moving, which is also mainly a visual change.

In the backend, units will now move with more efficient collision avoidance algorithms, again reducing lag without sacrificing precise movement. I’ve also written some simple flocking behaviors, so large groups of units will move together efficiently. For the most part, unit movement is now pretty much on par with what you’d expect from a modern RTS; the player can also queue up multiple move or attack orders by holding the shift key, and even large clusters of units are able to follow any waypoint path with reasonable accuracy, intelligently altering their courses based on other nearby units.

flocking behavior

Formation Drawing:

Finally, I’ve implemented a new formation drawing system, one that is much more customizable and all around better than the old one, which had only a few preset formation shapes. With the new system, when the player has a group of units selected he can hold down the formation hotkey (which for now is the Alt key) and by right clicking and dragging, draw a line of any shape in order to create a formation move order. Drawing a simple concave formation facing an enemy position is probably the best example of how the formation drawing system enables the player to very easily perform a useful task that would normally require many actions in other RTS games, but it allows for many other tactics as well. You can even scatter or split the selected units into multiple groups for a flank attack by releasing the right mouse button during the movement and drawing another separate line. In the same manner, the player can create formations several lines of units deep or add higher concentrations of units at certain areas on the line.

Ultimately, I think this system should elevate the level of gameplay for players of all skill levels, by providing a more intuitive control scheme for complicated tasks involving unit formations, especially considering that the largely projectile-based combat system in Empyrean Frontier heavily incentivizes good positioning. The formation drawing tool doesn’t automate any of the strategic or tactical decision making, it simply enables the player to give detailed orders with significantly fewer mouse clicks.

See also: