A little while back, I discovered a few new space games to keep track of, and one of them was Shallow Space, a gorgeous looking tactical space combat game that immediately reminded me of Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. It promises deep tactical fleet action, the ability to create packs (like wolfpacks!), large sectors to fight and much more. I therefore, of course, had to learn more, and reached out to the game’s developer, James Martin, to learn more about the game. The Q&A below is the result, which is a fun read if I may say so. Check it out after the cut, along with some new screenshots James sent over as well. :) Enjoy!
Brian Rubin: First off, for those who are unaware, could you please explain what Shallow Space is and how it came to be?
James Martin: Shallow Space is a 3D Real Time Strategy game, the player will control a fleet of ships starting off with just their very own capital battlecruiser and advancing to commanding 5-6 capital ships including a mammoth carrier and a Leviathan which is essentially a very well armed mothership. In addition to the capital ships the player can construct smaller vessels such as Cruisers, Frigates and Corvettes.
The game is a creation of my own fancy – an idea I’d been playing with for quite some time and when Nexus 2 was shelved and life presented me with an ideal lull I decided to get to work on making that idea a reality.
BR: You mention both Homeworld and Nexus as inspirations. As awesome as those games were, they did have some issues (i.e. the severe puzzle-like nature of Nexus’ missions). How have you determined what beloved featured to take from thee games while leaving out the…let’s say fluff?
JM: Nexus did have very challenging gameplay, at times it was annoying because you had to stumble upon the correct way to complete a mission, I enjoyed the challenge but I can understand if you wouldn’t find that fun. I take from Nexus the storytelling aspects and the incredible voice-acting, I think of that game as a benchmark for the standard. As a keen fan of the genre myself I know what works and hope to draw the best elements from each of the classics adding my own original twists.
BR: So it looks like missions will take place in single sectors, but what will these sectors contain? For example, multiple star systems with planets, asteroid fields, wormholes and the like? Will these sectors be randomly generated or will they be hand-crafted?
JM: The sectors will contain many types of self contained Space Station such as Military Outposts, Shipyards and Mining facilities and they will all have representative traffic. For example the Mining facilities will actually have resource collectors drilling into surrounding asteroids, Military Outpost will dispatch patrols etc. I don’t want to talk too much about spacial anomalies as I want it to be a surprise, but lets just say space is vast. The sectors will be procedurally generated to ensure that the experience is fresh each time the game is played although mainly because we want to enjoy playing it as much as you!
BR: Could you give us some examples of the kinds of random encounters will the player run into?
JM: There will be around six factions in the game, two of those factions (mercenaries and pirates) will be negative entities and will harass civilian traffic, as the police of the occupied sector you will respond to emergency calls. The other factions will randomly battle over resources so you’ll be expected to intervene, if one of the factions starts occupying all of the resources on the map the player may find it very hard to bring them down to complete the overall mission so you many need to co-ordinate your attacks with the AI factions to defeat the more powerful opponents.
BR: It sounds like a sector will be big enough to contain multiple fields of engagement, from patrolling to mining and so on. What can you tell us about the interface for the game that will hopefully keep all of this manageable?
JM: The player will have to keep one eye on the fleet panel, the ships will flash red when they are engaged. Double clicking on that ship will fly the camera over to them and the player will be able to slow time to help deal with issuing orders under duress. The UI will work to give the player as much control as possible but the game will be difficult in that command and support will need to be distributed on multiple fronts; we make no apologies for that!
BR: I love the idea of ships organized in packs, just like the submarines of old. Will the player be able to fine-tune these packs for different types of tasks, or will they be generated by the computer as ships are created?
JM: Indeed the player will be able to construct packs for various tasks, for example, the ships will have limited scan radius so the player will need to construct scout packs to work their way around the sector looking for build-ups of hostile forces. Fast attack packs comprised of frigates will be the astute players early response tactic and special support ships can handle the repair of damaged player and civilian ships and lay mines.
BR: What kind of ships will we be able to command, and how will different variants be acquired for each ship? Research, for example?
JM: There will be many classes of player producible ships ranging from Corvette’s on the smaller side to Cruisers on the large side, each class will have variants such as Light, Medium and Heavy and each variant can be fitted with weapons of the players choosing. There are also special variants in some of the classes such as Guided Missile Cruisers, Mine Layer Frigates and Support Frigates. The player will be given the blueprints by the TCN at the start of missions but the player can improve the designs through research.
The player will also be able to command special ships know as Capital Ships, these ships cannot be produced and will house much of the UI precluding to that particular function, for example clicking on the Capital Carrier brings up the carrier command panel. The ships will be commanded by your officers whom can level up and give perks at the ship, pack and fleet level. The capital ships will also house resource collectors, autonomous ship production facilities and special heavy weapons.
BR: Besides story-based missions, will there be random or side missions as well?
JM: Yes the sectors will be full of NPC ships requesting help or trying to fight you for your resources.
BR: The game has a “slow time” effect that apparently isn’t a pause, but does allow time to be slowed to a significant degree. Could you explain how this works and what its limitations are?
JM: The rate at which time is slowed can be set by the player, even to a complete standstill if desired. The main limitation is that this feature will not make it into the multiplayer for technical reasons.
BR: Will there be characters in the game such as admirals or captains? If so, will those characters be able to gain experience?
JM: Yes, as the player acquires more capital ships they will attract officers, these officers can be leveled up in an RPG like fashion to unlock special abilities.
BR: The game itself is absolutely gorgeous. Could you give us some details as to the engine its running, how many ships it can handle on the screen and so on?
JM: Thank-you, the game itself is programmed in Unity although that may change and we haven’t fully tested the capabilities of the game. We will likely lock the players’ fleet to between 40-50 ships as we think anymore than this would detract from the tactical experience.
BR: Besides the story-based missions and the like, will the game have any other gameplay modes such as skirmish maps, for example?
JM: In order to keep deadlines realistic, we will release the game with single player as the main focus with a single player skirmish mode. Once that’s out in the wild we’ll complete the multiplayer aspect.
BR: Finally, how far along is the game and when can we play the thing, because I want it now! ;)
JM: The game is still in very early stages of development; we are testing the extents of the engine and working out the best method of controlling ships in 3D space. We think we’ve hammered the fundamentals now and we should start seeing the game flesh out. We want to create a full experience, the ship models are outdated (especially next to say Eve online) we hope to raise enough cash via crowdsourcing to speed up development, remodel all of the craft and hire professional voice actors to really give it that AAA feel. Keep your eye on the blog (http://shallow-space.com) for the latest updates, we post to it at least twice a week and you’ll be the first to know when the Alpha becomes available!