Stardock announced a new Sins of a Solar Empire expansion today, subtitled Rebellion. In a separate press release, the company revealed a major update to its game development platform, Impulse Reactor, which will allow developers to implement "free to play" gaming through the Impulse digital distribution network.

The Impulse Reactor update is expected to go live this month and will add features to the SDK enabling "free to play" elements for games running on the Impulse platform. If you're one of the millions of players that has dropped coin on Riot Games' League of Legends or Turbine's DDO or Lord of the Rings Online, you've probably got a good idea of the potential here.

As for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, it's described as a "full-fledged expansion" of the 4X RTS space series -- not a sequel. Brian Clair, director of publishing for Stardock, told us that, like the original, Rebellion will not feature a single-player campaign, but will build upon the gameplay introduced in the original Sins and its micro-expansions.

Given the timing of the Rebellion announcement alongside news of the upcoming "free to play" options added to Impulse Reactor, we asked if this next Sins would be a free-to-play title. "Definitely not," Clair said, though pricing has not been set.

Rebellion will support achievements, multiplayer leagues and other features. Speaking to concerns voiced by players that don't have the hours to set aside for a standstard multiplayer match in Sins, Clair said, "We're going to continue looking at ways to address that for folks who want to get a game in under an hour."

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is expected to be released in late 2011; however a Stardock representative told us the company is taking the "done when it's done" approach to development.
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Impulse::Reactor to Allow Game Developers to Implement "Free to Play" Into Their Titles

- Forthcoming SDK to provide in-game stores, feature unlocking, premium content downloads and much more -

San Francisco, CA., March 1, 2011 – Digital distributor Impulse, Inc. (www.impulsedriven.com) announced the addition of several new features designed to enable developers easily add "free to play" type features to their PC games. The next beta drop of its forthcoming game developer platform SDK, Impulse::Reactor, scheduled in March, is expected to include an in-game store experience, feature unlocking, and seamless downloadable content management all managed from an easy to use developer portal. Parent company Stardock Entertainment has begun to migrate all its titles to utilize the new features of Impulse::Reactor. "The increasing growth of the free to play model along with premium downloadable content has created a lot of interest in the game development community for tools that make it easy to integrate these capabilities into their games," said Brad Wardell, CEO of Impulse, Inc.

Impulse::Reactor has been in beta for the past year to select development partners. It enables game developers to add DRM, multiplayer match-making, community features, and DLC support. The March beta update will be adding feature unlocking and premium DLC support.

What makes Impulse::Reactor compelling is that it does not require an external client to be included with the game. Instead, the developer only has to include the Impulse::Reactor DLLs with their title and pick and choose which features of it they wish to make use of. The new features of Impulse::Reactor streamline the process of managing the selected features and content and vastly reduces implementation time as it integrates seamlessly with other SDKs. Because it doesn't require an external client, it is more palatable to retailers and digital distributors since it is 'vendor neutral.'

"This is particularly cool for gamers," said Wardell. "When a gamer loads up their game, they will see an option called 'Add Features.' Choosing this option will take them to an in-game catalog that displays all features available. Some features may be content (maps, campaigns, levels, skins, items, quests, etc.). Other features may be extensions to the game itself (multiplayer, new game modes, etc.). This allows for greater selection and choice on the gamer's end, and on the developer end, a more streamlined development experience with greater value add."

"We see the free to play model for PC gaming becoming increasingly dominant over the next couple of years across multiple genres," said Brian Clair, director of publishing for Stardock. "Impulse::Reactor will let our customers begin to pick and choose what features and content they want, allowing us to reduce the up-front price on our games in the future."

Impulse::Reactor v1.0 is still in internal beta and is only available to select developers. Visit http://developer.impulsedriven.com to sign up for the beta.

General availability of Impulse::Reactor v1.0 is anticipated in summer 2011.

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Rebellion is Upon Us: The Next Chapter of Sins of a Solar Empire Unveiled at Game Developer's Conference 2011

-Stardock Entertainment and Ironclad Games Announce Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion -

Plymouth, MI – March 1, 2011 – The time of Diplomacy is over. The length of the war and differing opinions on what should be done to bring the war to an end has led to a splintering of the groups involved. The controlling powers-that-be have depleted arsenals and seemed to have exhausted all efforts of diplomacy. Trapped in a stalemate, sub-factions have rebelled and broken off the main alignments. Rebellion is upon us.

The exciting next chapter in the awesome Sins of a Solar Empire universe has arrived. A full-fledged expansion to the original, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion draws you even deeper into the galactic struggle for supremacy with appealing new factions, terrifyingly cool new ships of all sizes, enhanced lighting and particle effects for increased visual pleasure and all-new victory conditions.

"Rebellion is the first stand-alone expansion to the Sins of a Solar Empire universe," said Brian Clair, director of publishing for Stardock. "Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion will add many new ships, refresh the visuals and integrate Impulse::Reactor features to support achievements, multiplayer leagues and much more."

In the original award-winning Sins of a Solar Empire, developed by Ironclad Games, you are the leader of one of three civilizations embroiled in a galactic war, fighting for survival of your entire race against relentless foes. Your success will depend on your ability to manage your empire and command your vast fleets of starships to victory. Players will colonize new worlds, develop extensive trade networks, conduct research, fortify their empires with powerful starbases and fleets of ships, plus control the galaxy using the unique diplomacy system that reacts dynamically to the players' actions.

New features of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion include:

· New Factions: Players decide whether to become Loyalists or Rebels, which unlocks a unique new tech tree granting them new technologies and ship variants.

· New Titan-class ships: Massive warships for each race that dwarf capital ships, these deadly new monsters are capable of wiping out entire enemy fleets single-handedly.

· New Capital Ships: A new capital ship class arrives, giving players new strategic options.

· New Corvette-class ships: Small, highly maneuverable light ships that are adept at a variety of tasks.

· Loyalist and Rebel versions of some of the existing Sins' frigates and cruisers, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

· Updated lighting and particle effects for enhanced visuals. · New Victory Conditions to allow for more variety, differing strategies and shorter game sessions.

· Additional capital ship ability levels, for greater strategic choice.

· Impulse::Reactor support for chat, friends, achievements and more.

For the complete Sins of a Solar Empire experience, please visit www.sinsofasolarempire.com.

About Ironclad Ironclad Games is the creator, owner and developer behind the top selling and critically acclaimed Sins of a Solar Empire series. Learn more by visiting www.ironcladgames.com and www.sinsofasolarempire.com.

About Stardock Stardock is one of the world's leading developers and publishers of PC games and desktop software. Its PC games include the award-winning Sins of a Solar Empire as well as the critically acclaimed Galactic Civilizations series. Its desktop software includes Object Desktop, WindowBlinds, and a host of other programs for customizing the Windows experience. Learn more about Stardock by visiting www.stardock.com. # # #

This article was originally published on Joystiq.