A little while back, I was made aware of an upcoming called Endless Space, which looked like a pretty cool 4X concept. I followed up with the creators of the game, and they were gracious enough to do a Q&A — because I totally had questions — the answers to which you can read after the cut. My questions were answered by Romain de Waubert, the Creative Director of Endless Space, who also included a personal message as well, which you can read after the Q&A. Enjoy!
Brian: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. First off, could you tell me the origins of Endless Space, such as the inspiration for the game, why you chose to do a space-based 4X strategy game, and so on?
Romain: When Mathieu Girard and I founded Amplitude Studios there was one thing we had in mind: Making the best possible strategy games; ones that would be beautiful, accessible and deep.
There hasn’t been a strong 4X space game in a while, in my opinion. The last one that struck me (really hard) was Galactic Civilization 2, and that was nearly 10 years ago…
For me, a space strategy game really has to move you far away from your reality. I mean, come on, we’re talking about colonizing space, here… So I really want to see something beautiful where I feel the possibilities are “endless”…
That is why, when we started to design Endless Space, we had several areas we wanted to work on:
First, the gameplay depth. We started by developing a game prototype to prove our gameplay and to verify that it would be cool, different, and offer a wide variety of strategies. We think we proved it (it took us nearly a year…).
At the same time, if we wanted to really lure players into our universe, to make them live the experience of being a galactic Emperor (not always an easy job), we had to create a believable and attractive universe. So we worked a lot with our game writer, Jeff Spock, and our Art Director, Corinne Billon, in order to cast a spell on the game with a universe containing thousands of years of history, and strong references for believable and stunning visuals.
Then we looked at the interface, in order to make it accessible and good looking. I never again want to play a strategy game where I get a headache just looking at the interface.
Next, when I look at my favorite space operas, there is one thing that strikes me: the battles are incredibly beautiful and epic. So we added a strong focus in that area. Our AI director will transform our real time battles into mini, cinematic movie-style battles so the player can really enjoy the consequences of their strategic decisions.
Brian: One thing that has caught my eye is the “GAMES2GETHER initiative”. Could you explain this in more detail, please? Is this only for developer feedback, or for multiplayer games, or something else?
Romain: Well, this is something else I guess. We had all been working a lot in the past with our communities to help us refine our games. Often it was done once the game was finished, and suddenly you realize all the things that you wish you had known during dev time. Some of my favorite games really came to life thanks to their community.
With GAMES2GETHER we mainly wanted to give all the tools to our community so that they can express themselves, make their voices heard, and make sure they had an impact in the game.
Brian: Could you please give us some details about the interface of the game, and how easily the player can, as your site terms it, “switch between strategic battle decisions and long-term planning”? Finding a balanced control scheme for a game of this scope can’t be simple.
Romain: No, it is not simple, and designing a good UI is also a matter of deciding what actions you want your players to do and where. Our game is about putting you in the shoes of an emperor, with a few options that should have great consequences. So even if the game is not a Space Emperor Simulator, it is still very deep and we use the UI to clearly show you where you can interact, and all the information you need… There are a lot of things to follow when you are an Emperor, and we don’t want you to get lost!
Brian: Sticking with the interface for a moment, one of my favorite parts of games like these is ship design. Could you give us some details as to the interface for ship design in the game, such as how detailed it is, the types of ships you can create and so on?
Romain: We wanted the ship design to be powerful but not limited. So you will have plenty of options to equip them with a lot of different modules to counter your enemy, to gain offensive power, or to last longer in order to gain more experience. You can also opt to make your ship a support ship that will make other ships more powerful in combat.
Brian: Could you please give us some more details as to what some of the victory conditions for a game might be, such as scientific, diplomatic, military, and so on, and how customizable they are?
Romain: You can choose which victory you want to pursue in your game, such as Supremacy, Wonder, Economic, Diplomatic, Scientific, Expansion and of course Score. We want to reward the players for playing the way they really like, and if generating money or making allies is how you want to play the game, that gameplay should be rewarded.
Brian: Could you please give us some more information on how multiplayer will work? For example, your site states, “instant jump-in for your ongoing online games.” How does that work, and how big can these multiplayer games be? Does the universe continue if you log out, for example?
Romain: Our multiplayer is a real-time turn-based with up to 8 players (or AI). Everyone takes their turn simultaneously, so they move and fight at the same time. To make it smooth we allow players to jump in and out of games in real time.
Steamworks will be integrated and will allow us to guarantee a high level of service for our players.
Multiplayer is very important to us. Sure, I understand that 80% of our players will not play multiplayer… But a game like Endless Space is so much fun to play with friends that I really think it is worth it to put a special effort there, and that’s what we are doing.
Actually, from day one when designing the game we always had multiplayer in mind, and whenever we come up with a feature we always think about how it will work in an environment with human players.
Brian: Could you tell us a bit more about researching and the tech trees involved? For example, are their tiers? Is it randomized per game or per race? Are there racial or industrial bonuses that can help one research technologies faster, and if so, how do these work?
Romain: We really want to give a strong gameplay feeling for each faction, so playing a Craver will feel very different than the United Empire. Science plays a key role in that respect.
Every faction has access to a common tech trees, yet, every one of them will have their own technologies, or modified technologies from the original tree.
So to speak numbers we have roughly 140 technologies, and to that we have added 40 specific faction technologies. These specific technologies will be powerful, and probably modify how you will plan your technological evolution.
Brian: How detailed are the diplomatic options in the game, and could you give us more information about the diplomatic system in general? Besides the traditional options like trade agreements and the like, are the other options such as espionage, for example?
Romain: Regarding our diplomacy, we want to encourage our players to win without fighting. So we’re trying to provide the necessary tools for the players to establish the best relationships possible with their neighbors.
Of course you will be able to exchange resources and luxuries, and create deals or create alliances. Alliances will be quite different for us, as an alliance is a team. When you create an alliance, people are either with or against that alliance. You will never see two of your allies being at war together and asking you to choose sides…
There is one other thing which is different, and which has quite an impact on the game’s dynamic. By default players are not at peace, but are in cold war. What does that mean? That everyone can fight anyone at no diplomatic cost when outside the frontiers… “In space, no one can hear you scream” will definitely make a lot of sense with Endless Space!
Brian: Talking technically for a moment, the graphics in your game look pretty stunning. Could you tell us about the engine you’re using, what its capabilities and features are, and what the system requirements for the game might be?
Romain: Regarding the engine, we chose Unity. In fact, Unity was one of the reasons Mathieu and I decided that we could create our studio. Other technologies have a brute force approach concerning tools, or are not so great for portability, or are insanely expensive… and we wanted to create a design company, not a technology company. So far, we are glad we made that choice.
Regarding system requirements, we want everyone that has a laptop, not even a gamer one, and even from 2007-2008, to be able to play our game. And Unity so far scales rather well. We had low configs in mind from the beginning, so everyone who has an interest in this game should not be held back by hardware concerns. As the Alpha and Beta testing continues, we’ll keep a close look at configurations and player’s reactions regarding the performance of the game for them.
Brian: Finally, what’s possibly the one thing you’re most excited about in Endless Space that you would love to get across to fans of the genre so they can share in your excitement?
Romain: Endless Space would have never been what it is today without all the passion that went into the game. And that passion is now fueled by our community. Their involvement is amazing, their positivism, private testing feedback, votes for features, game content creation… all of that is mind blowing! Thanks, guys!
I know this totally piques my interest in the game, but to hopefully further whet our appetites, Romain included this message as well:
Hi my name is Romain de Waubert, and I am the Creative Director of Endless Space to put you in the mood.
I have been making games for nearly 15 years and in a number of roles including Lead Designer of Battlefield 1942 and Producer of Dark Messiah, Heroes of Might and Magic, Clash of Heroes or even Call of Juarez.
Mathieu Girard and I founded Amplitude Studios, and brought in a bunch of other industry veterans like Corinne Billon (Rayman, Ghost Recon) or Jeff Spock (Might and Magic).
First off, I’d like to thank you for giving us a chance to present Endless Space.
In Endless Space, you take the role of the leader of one of the many intelligent peoples populating a galaxy at the beginning of the space age. You soon discover the remnants of an older civilization known as the Endless, an odd name for an extinct people… Among their ruins you discover a matter called Dust, which has many amazing proprieties. It reacts to how its user thinks, it can create networks and communicate, it gives a reality to dreams. Dreams that led to the extinction of the Endless.
That substance has become the most precious thing in the universe, and therefore is treated as the universal currency. But when faced with the power of the Dust, it is hard even for the purest beings to not fall under its spell.
What is Endless Space? in a few words. if Civilization, Master of Orion and Total War decided to have a child together, they may have called it Endless Space.
Endless Space is a deep strategy game covering the space colonization age, where you can control every aspect of your empire: Economy, Diplomacy, Science and War.
We want the players to live an experience that goes beyond simple strategy. You will live your own story of space conquest in your own sandbox full of empires, technologies and unknown worlds for you to conquer.
The goal is for the game to offer endless possibilities for opportunities and outcomes. You will be able to create your own faction from over 100 traits, and test it against others. a bit like a mad scientist trying to create the perfect being to rule the universe.
Depending on your play style you can choose more or less aggressive traits, more or less social, economic, or diplomatic strengths. it will really be up to you to decide how to dominate the galaxy.
And when all hell breaks loose, when battles are your last resort, you should be able to enjoy the battles as if you were watching a movie from your favorite space opera. To get there we paid a lot of attention to our battles. We want them to be the pinnacle of your strategy: Faction traits, ship design, technology focus, fleet composition, … Did you make the right choices?
Because most of the key decisions are strategic ones, taken before the battle, very few decisions are necessary when the battles are resolved. Therefore, you can let our AI director lead the show for you. Nonetheless, you will still have the opportunity to choose some specific fleet orders that will let you focus on certain weaponry, repair your ships, create action combos or even totally counter your opponent’s strategy.
In the end the way you win will completely depend on you and your play style. And when you feel ready, gather your friends and show them who is most fit to rule as emperor of the galaxy!
Please take into account that this is an Alpha version. There is a lot of polish to come — balance is off, AI is far from our target (the structure is there, but there is a lot to learn), and there are still a lot of things here and there that we want to add to make the game easier to handle, to have the universe more present, and to reinforce the sense of achievement.
We are working intimately, and on a daily basis, with a team of community alpha testers that are helping us with the polishing and balancing.
I really hope you will enjoy Endless Space, and I am at your disposal to answer your questions.
Thanks to the folks over at Amplitude Studios for helping me put this together. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. :)