I hadn't see Star Traders before. From the Wikipedia description, yep, it's probably going to be pretty similar.
The mechanics for the game are mostly based on Cepheus Engine, which is an open source version of the classic Traveller Role Playing game. From the trailer you can see how this plays into crew creation. They are fully fledged RPG characters. Many people considered the character creation process of Traveller a mini-game in and of itself (since you could die during it). At some point I may open that part up and let you roll up your own characters.
The next feature I am working on is system navigation, followed by stellar navigation. Ports are on planets in fully expanded star systems. Most systems just have one port, but some systems may have several. So you can fly around the system visiting other ports or worlds. Initially there won't be a lot of reasons to fly around systems if you are just trading. So most people will focus on stellar travel, which will let you move between entire star systems.
After that, I'll implement trade. So you can buy and sell cargo in each port. At that point we'll have a playable game and I'll do the first release.
Features beyond that will be allowing you to upgrade your ship. I have fully implemented the Cepheus ship design system, so, literally, any sort of ship could be made. Like with character generation, however, I'll probably start off with various stock types. But since many Traveller players just play it to create ships, I have kept up the ability to create custom ships.
Of course at some point there has to be ship-to-ship combat. And since the basic mechanics are there, it could eventually support character-to-character combat (like Six Swords). I'd like to put in upgradable scanners, and allow exploration for zero-volume information cargo, to make the rest of star systems relevant.
The original aim for Star Lanes was to create three more companion games: Star Squad, Star Scout and Star Trade. The audio interface for Star Lanes got too complicated to add additional features so the adaption was to split it into separate, but related games dealing with strategic combat, tactical combat, exploration, and trade. I got some way into the project, with Star Squad getting the closest to being playable. But the code got complex, existing Star Lanes players started to complain about the mechanics being perturbed, and it just kind of fell apart. So I shelved the project and wrote Six Swords from the ground up.
I've learned a lot making Six Swords. Enough that I have new techniques for audio interfaces to deal with the problem of too many features. As you can see from the teaser trailer, functionality is activated by going to places in the physical geography. So more functionality can be added by expanding the physical geography, rather than the linguistic complexity. This gets a little cumbersome, but a new technique is that you can switch your point of view between characters, giving you the ability to "bookmark" certain locations by leaving a character there.
We may still hit a playability barrier at some point of complexity. But at least I now have the technical structure to add in all the features I wanted in the original Star Lanes concept.
Currently the game is linked to Star Lanes solely in terms that it shares the same geography. Star Lanes is purely strategic, and so you could only see the main port in each star, and could not see the stars with no ports. Star Trade gives you more visibility into the entire system, but the gameplay is not currently linked. The original idea was that you could join the same factions in Star Trade and your trading could influence the supply of raw materials available for strategic play in Star Lanes. I will see how the game grows and decide a little further down the road if I'll link them up in that way, or else migrate the strategic game play to Star Trade.
All opinions welcome!