Shadow Star is a Science Fiction Role Playing Game that casts you as the Commander aboard a star ship exploring the galaxy during an interstellar war between four great empires. Played in a 1st person perspective, Shadow Star focuses on rich character interaction, emergent gameplay, and narrative quests as seen from the decks of your ship. The game allows the player to build their own fleets, manage officers and crews, and explore procedural star systems full of NPCs on ships and stations, similar to if Mass Effect or Knight of the Old Republic met FTL or the Elite series.
Shadow Star is set several million years in the future, long after humanity had gone extinct following a series of disasters referred to as “The Cataclysm of Old Earth.” Their machine progeny survived to colonize the galaxy on their own, eventually reaching their pinnacle of evolution and adopting the role of gods.
After meeting in the depths of space, four great Progenitor machines returned to the moonscaped ruins of Terra where they resurrected our species as bio-mechanical hybrids identical in every way to us, but genetically engineered for life in space. Four human empires arose from the dust around their Progenitors and continued to expand across the cosmos as Forerunners.
Centuries later, you are born to a family living on Terra, where you entered a multi-national peacekeeping organization aimed at maintaining the law between the rising empires. When an interstellar war between the Serin, Torlan, Confederacy, and Lantus erupts, you are thrust into the captain’s chair of your first ship, The Concordia, on a mission to find the lost Shadow Star to give your nation, or yourself, an edge in the unfolding events that will reshape humanity once again.
Whether you swear allegiance to the gods, the nation you were born to, or your own personal desires is up to you. One day you will find the lost Shadow Star and the Star Harrier Epoch, and that day will rewrite destiny by your hand.
There are no aliens in Shadow Star; no time travel or psychedelic physics – only humans who have grown strange to one another by the consequences of their actions. We are alone in the galaxy with each other and our self-made gods, the greatest monsters we’ve ever known.
Obviously, this is all still just paperwork. I haven’t settled on a game engine yet, but I am building prototype models for our modular starships and their interior level design with CryEngine or Unity in mind. I want to choose the right engine for what is required, and that means I need to first gather my team and assess where their experience is.
This will be the first game ever made to feature a vehicle that is also a level design, in a sandbox open universe, with a first person Role Playing interface. There is no preexisting engine for that.
I haven’t made the bridge assets yet, so here we are looking at the 3rd Person view of the ship at the player will see while they are jacked-in to the CSX. These UI Mockups are serving as my plan for the actual game.
What Needs Doin’:
Currently, I am looking for more character concept artists that can make up for my tragic technician sketches. These do a good job of conveying to a 3D charter artist what my overall line and shape definition will be, as well as how the characters should fit into the uniform, and their colours. But they uh, look bad.
Confederate Engineers – standard uniform.
Confederate off-duty uniforms – Blue: Coms Tech. Red: Weapons Tech.
Serin Weapons Officer
I’ll be setting aside some money to hire commissioned artists to produce real concept art that I can then take to my financing people and to invite artists & coders on-board. If you are interested, let’s work out a deal. Right now I’m really low on money, but I can spare maybe 50-100$ maybe each month for individual sheets like these above, with a front, back, and portrait.
There are 4 Standard Uniforms for each race:
Basic Duty Crew
Basic Duty Officer
Basic Duty Elite Officer & Crew (adds a unique pieced to the standard uniform)
Basic Underwear (Off duty is the underwear top plus basic duty pants)
There are 4 Armour Types for each race:
Basic Personnel Armour
Lite Body Armour
Heavy Body Armour
That’s 8 for each race:
24 Individual Drawings, 50-100$/piece for B&W thumbnails + detailed colours – ~1200-2400$
That’s a lot of money for me right now. But I am willing to start pulling it together from some savings I’ve built up. 250-500$/piece is also about the cost of commissioning a freelancer to do one 3D model of these characters, so that price is going to be around 13,500$ for all 24.
I’m also working with some friends to concept out the interior & exterior models for our ships, which have quite a few loose props, useful components that need to take damage and visually show stat upgrades, and the exterior hulls of ships which must also take visible damage.
The modular starships are the hardest part of this, as they have no other basis in current-gen design. This is a totally new process I’ve invented using the same 3D modelling techniques we’re all used to in applying modular approaches to textures & meshes, but in a very specific way.
These are fully modular ships, meaning they are made out of little cubes like Legos. They click together following a very simple grammar:
The SPINE runs down the centre of the ship between a BOW CAP and a STERN CAP.
Fleshing out the ships’s body are four types of square modules: SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, XLARGE, which take up 8, 12, 16, and 24 metres wide, and 10, 20, or 40 meters long.
The modules always end along the outer edge of the ship in a skirt called EDGING.
If you can have a FLAT — module on the interior along the spine, and a SLANT \\\ module attached to the EDGING. If you need to alternate you have a TRANSITION piece that allows you to expand to new rows.
You can make pretty much whatever you want out of this system and render practically dozens to hundreds of unique designs. Whole fleets can be rendered this way. You just need more unique END CAPS and STERN CAPS to really give it a genuinely special look.
Each race has tis own individual thematic elements that carry through their lore and their design, and go to influence the shape of the modular kit. The Confederates above are supposed to be ugly, hulking bricks in space, very utilitarian, like a retro-futuristic NASA. The Serin Empire are all about their imperial vibe, having a zen-like religion based on serenity through conflict in worship of their god, Anax, whose colours are red, gold, and black. The Lantus are mirror finished, curving, and elegant, with a bio-synthetic moss on the floor, like the high elves of Rivendell in an Apple Store in space. finally, the Torlan are more imperial high-german and japanese, with a sterile while, black and blue aesthetic.
Doing concept art for one of these ships I’ve seen go for 75-325$, for thumbnails and then more detailed presentation ready art.
Again, there are 4 races:
There are 6 Types of Starship, with 2-6 modular Bows and Sterns:
Frigate (pictured int he two above)
Military Space Station (mining, industrial, administrative, shipyard)
Corporate Space Station (mining, industrial, diplomatic, storefronts, shipyard)
There are then 2 Hero types:
18 (the Torlan only use Battlecruisers, and re-textured ships from other races.) That may cost between 1350-3150$ for all 18 illustrations. From experience, modelling and texturing one of these ships took me 3 1/2 months, or about 90 days. That could cost upwards of 5200$ per vessel, not including rigging, animating, and importing to the final game engine. Very expensive. so I’ll be handling most of the 3D assets myself until we get funding.
Each race also has 3 interior Room & Hallway Kits:
Engineering and Utility Room & Hallway Kit
Bridge and Lab Room & Hallway Kit
Cargo, Conduit, and Engine Room & Hallway Kit.
Let’s go ahead and say there are 3 types of basic room on one concept art sheet, plus about 15 Hero rooms, that’s around another 1,400 to 2400$.
Toss on turrets and exterior hull components, which number about 12 for each race, and that’s 1,800 to 2,800$.
For Characters, Ships, Rooms, hull components — around 84 works of conceptual art –4,400 to 8,350$. Not a bad number for a big company at all! Kinda hard for me by myself, but it is doable! It’s just that I need to balance the good concept art, which is critical to our 3D imagination and to netting talented designers, as well as our marketing… and then there is actual game assets, which will require full time employees working on some very innovative, and challenging, programming and art.
We’ll see how much money I can raise, and that will determine how much I can spend.
The Business End:
Radian-Helix Media will be transitioning from our media production start-up mode to a more functional company in the next few years, and I want Shadow Star to be at the core of that effort. Scott has Tradecraft Blues, and Thomas and I have NEM Gate coming together.
I have broken down the cost of developing Shadow Star on a bi-weekly basis, monthly basis, and annual costs. With insurances, rent (at a shred downtown office co-working space I’m invited to use for cheap,) utilities, new computer stations, networking for the office, website hosting & server fees, and business management accounting, plus weekly payroll… I’m going to need around 325,000$ over four years, across 32 employees for 18 months, and the rest of the game with 12 full time employees, artists and programmers. Some of these people I have already in Radian-Helix Media.
It’s not a bad plan, and it isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve made huge gargantuan scale projects like Fallout Project Brazil and NEM Gate, and I’ve now worked as a freelancer on several major motion pictures and three AAA video games, along with untold dozens of indie games and movies. It’ll be my first time running a major business venture, however, but I have friends that are CEOs at major international corporations and studio executives in hollywood to base my experiences off.
I could use some more personal experience with business finances and management at a studio before starting one of my own. So far I haven’t worked at a major games studio in person, only as a remote freelancer. I have put in time at major motion picture studios as a VFX producer and assistant producer. That’s informed me as a business owner how to behave, but I still need some of the fine details of those experiences.
We won’t be the first to successfully start an indie studio with little experience in the business end of things, but we do have industry experience, so that will help our chances. We also have Shadow Star’s incredibly meticulous planning, which is a solid concept. I’ll keep working on the marketing and distribution model as we stat to create the concept basis for the game’s design.
That’s where I need my fellow artists! Consider this an invitation!
Send me a note, and we’ll get started!