A little while back, I was contacted by a team of folks who had done a very popular overhaul mod for FTL called the Captain’s Edition. This mod added a whole new spate of events, factions and much more. However, like with any game, it can only be modded so much, but the folks behind the mod wanted to do more. They eventually broke off into doing their own thing, the result of which will be Hyperspace Admirals. This game will, rather than have you captaining one single ship and her crew, have you manage entire fleets through randomly generated galaxies. When I learned about this, I clearly had to know more, so I invited the developers to do a Q&A. Below, Stefan Widany, along with programmers Rann Lifshitz and Tomasz Bachmiński took the time to answer my middling questions, which I hope you enjoy. Check it out, and thanks for reading!
Brian Rubin: Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! First off, could you fill people in on the FTL mod you created which was an impetus for this fully-fledged game?
Hyperspace Admirals Team: Sure. Captain’s Edition modifies and extends FTL on pretty much any conceivable level. It adds new weapons, drones, augments, enemy classes, space stations, events, sector types, factions and space hazards. It also has an optional module that adds an infinite mode, and one that extends FTL’s soundtrack. All of the above was done with a tight balance in mind and we tried to match the vanilla game’s style and tone as closely as possible. Overall it was designed be a harder and more complex than the main game, Captain’s Edition caters mostly to people that got really good at FTL and look for a fresh challenge. The mod has been in development since 2012, and from what we can tell it might have up to 20.000 users right now. There is a wiki dedicated to the mod that lists it’s content in detail.
BR: When did you realized you had the making for a fully-fledged game out of your mod, and what did you have to do to transition from making a mod to a separate game?
HAT: Early in 2014 I started to feel like Captain’s Edition had exhausted FTL’s modding potential. I teamed up with Rann, and he coded some tools that would allow us to modify FTL even further, but we soon felt like we couldn’t expand FTL any more than that. Rann already entertained the idea of making our own game back then, and I started to see that we actually could do it. Our experience with modding turned out to be immensely useful and I started to get much deeper into game design in 2015. Rann worked on an early prototype, while I drew up design documents and the first game art. At this point it still felt like I was spending more time with my hobby, the transition to really making our own game came when we launched our site and got additional people aboard to work on the game.
BR: What is the ultimate goal in Hyperspace Admirals? For example, are you running from something, as in FTL, or running to something, as in Distant Star?
HAT: The game will feature different story premises, that also act as different game modes, but the overall meta goal will always be to upgrade and extend your fleet to survive. Something is going down in the part of the galaxy where you are stationed, with conflicting information on what the crisis really is about. The game’s factions are gearing up, unresolved conflicts escalate all over the sector and you are right in the middle of it.
BR: Will one be able to take their time and explore the galaxies in the game, or is this a more focused experience? I ask because there was a mod that removed the rebel fleet from FTL and changed the entire game to one focusing on exploration, and I LOVED that.
HAT: Right! That was a much requested feature for FTL. In HA this will again depend on the story premise you play, but one of them will definitely be an endless mode where you technically can play forever. Time will generally be a central factor in all game modes. You can navigate the map freely, but everything you do takes time and with every standard month that passes, your opposition will grow stronger. This also applies in endless play.
BR: How large can the galaxies be in your game?
HAT: That’s another thing that will depend on the story premise you play. What will really matter in HA is how many locations of interest there are to explore, each of which will feature a random event. There will be hundreds such events, but certain story premises will create more locations to explore than others.
BR: How deep are you modeling the crews of your ships? Will you be modeling individual crew members like in FTL, or just the overall ships themselves?
HAT: There won’t be any floor-plans or individually displayed crew, as our fleets imply a pretty big scale, sometimes with hundreds of crew manning an individual ship. Your crewmen are mostly numbers. Depending on the ship they originate from, they will have attack and defense values and they can board and fight other crew detachments. During the fight, crew detachments can take various stances that give certain bonuses.
BR: With procedurally generated loot, will one be able to specialize their ships for specific tasks, or will there already be specialized ships from the get go?
HAT: Some ships are more versatile than others, but most will have upgrade caps that limit their potential in certain areas and predestine them for certain roles. Your fleet will to some extent act as a single unit, and it can be specialized as a whole by trying to get a certain ship composition. But more often than not you’ll have to make do with what you get and adjust. HA tries to be a roguelike after all.
BR: How can one acquire new ships for their fleet? Boarding? Diplomacy? Outright purchasing?
HAT: Pretty much all of the above, yeah. Ships can be rewards in events as well.
BR: That makes me wonder, what is the currency in this game, and how can one go about acquiring it?
HAT: HA is set in a pretty advanced world where most things can be gathered and produced quite easily. The only thing that really is of value on such a tech stage is rare elements that you don’t literally find on every corner in the galaxy. This exotic “ship relevant matter” (SRM) serves as the game’s main currency. You can salvage it from destroyed ships, but it can also serve as a payment in events and certain ships might be used to mine or collect it.
BR: What are the essential elements a fleet needs to survive? Many games abstract this as “resources.” Will that be the case here, or will there be more specific elements such as food, fuel, energy and the like?
HAT: You’ll need SRM to repair and upgrade your fleet and to purchase things. Beyond that, your fleet needs fuel to travel and ammo to fight, but SRM can be converted into those things over time. The game also heavily implies that space battles on a certain tech stage can’t be managed by feeble organic individuals alone, so your fleet relies on a centralized combat AI to coordinate all ship functions. The AI supplies processing power that has to be distributed and managed across all ships, not unlike FTL’s ship power mechanic.
BR: Will there be interaction with planets at all, such as landing for resources or mining remotely, or maybe trading with settlements?
HAT: The game focuses on ship-to-ship combat in space, but interactions with planets can happen through events. These probably won’t be graphically represented though.
BR: Will there be any kind of role-playing element for your admiral and/or ships crews, and if so, could you elaborate on how they work?
HAT: The name-giving hyperspace admirals have a central role in the game. They start out with certain back-stories and can gain a large variety of traits and quirks, depending on what happens to them throughout the game. These traits might affect the ship they command or even the entire battle. Some traits provide passive bonuses, some trigger in certain circumstances. We also consider giving them some overarching stats like “loyalty” and “niceness”. Our goal is that they don’t feel like characters you control, they will rather be individuals in your fleet that you have to deal with. Some will fit in well with your plans, some might actually work against you. The main idea is that all of them will have a mind of their own.
BR: Will there be any possibility for modding or game editing?
HAT: Absolutely! Given that we had such a great time with modding during the last years, we aim to make the game as modding-friendly as possible. And even at this early stage, that already features into our design decissions and the code.
BR: Finally, when can we expect to get our grubby paws on the thing and play it ourselves, even in an early access form?
HAT: We hope to get a beta ready in the first half of 2016. At some point there might also be a public demo, but that is still very far ahead.
BR: Thanks for your time!