How I decided to make Star Eater

Star Eater is a concept I’ve been working on for a while. In its infantile stage, star eater was envisioned as a video game.

I was interested in making a game which obeyed hard-scifi rules of space combat over the cinematic approach which I kept seeing in most space-combat games I’ve played.

I was mainly enamoured with the idea of an inertial movement system as I thought this was the key to strategic play. I imagined a system where a player would constantly need to think about the trade-offs between getting to their destination fast and the possibility of over-shooting their target location, presenting an ever-present tension that infused every action with a sense of consequence. As I thought more about the limitations which would be required to make such a thing manageable to a player without being overwhelming, I ended up introducing a turn structure, thinking to divide time into a few seconds at a time and allowing the player to operate their ships between time-slices. Before long it became clear to me that I was designing, in-effect, a digital board game.

I’m a big fan of this kind of thing, when it comes to games like X-Com or Civilisation. Where the sheer complexity of the rules and all the bits and pieces which need to be tracked thoroughly prohibits attempting to play them as a traditional table-top game. However I’ve always been of the opinion that if a game CAN be a table top game, it SHOULD be a table top game.

In my experience, digital board games can never quite beat the visceral sensation of manipulating tokens on a board in a battle of wits against a competent opponent sitting right in front of you. This is the same reason I love chess when played on a physical chess set, but can never really get into any of those online chess apps I’ve installed on my phone.

On top of that, the capabilities of modern computers seem to me like a potential trap for game design. When there are no limits on how complex and inscrutable you can make the rules, it seems to me that you’d always be tempted to make your rules overly complex. The restriction of needing to keep your rules simple enough for a person to handle, and the number of moving parts small enough to be reasonably set-up or put away for a single play session are an excellent scaffolding to keep your game design disciplined and focused.

And so back in May 2020, with those realisations in mind, I decided to switch mediums and make a board game.

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