Steven Peeler, the founder of Soldak Entertainment, has been behind some downright AMAZING role playing games. In Depths of Peril, we were given a huge world with warring factions, and as the head of one of those factions, it was up to us to make them the dominant power in the game world. In Din’s Curse, we were a lone here, suffering for the sins of our previous lifetime by having to save towns accosted by the forces of darkness.
Now, Soldak is turning their eyes to space, and bringing their dedication to depth, detail, and randomness to a new — and as yet untitled — space game that puts us in command of a mercenary ship, completing missions for various factions. I sent Steven some questions about this upcoming game, and he’s been kind enough to answer them in detail. Click below for the fill interview
Brian: Up until now, your games have been based on high fantasy. What inspired you to break free of the confines of towns and dungeons and head off into deep space, and where did the idea of a mercenary space captain in a Master of Orion-style universe come from?
Steven: Basically I like both fantasy and science fiction settings and we haven’t done any sci-fi games yet. :) The basic premise of a mercenary working for major empires warring with each other idea came from a few goals I wanted to achieve for this game. I wanted an interesting setting, something that was relatively familiar, but also at the same time different. I know those last two sound pretty opposing, but I think we came up with something that works. Many strategy games have had opposing empires that scout out potential territory, colonize, and use diplomacy and war to expand and take over all of the available territory. So the background is something that has seen before. However, playing a little (but important) cog in this galactic process is fairly different than most other games of this type especially when everything is dynamic and not a set storyline.
Brian: Designing and creating a game in the expanse of open space has to be quite different from making a game in the confines of dungeons. What are some of the new and different challenges you’re facing in creating this new game compared to making Din’s Curse or Depths of Peril?
Steven: Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril had a little bit of this but I think the biggest challenge is getting it to feel like you are in the middle of this huge galactic conflict between all of these alien races. At the same time it’s going to be difficult to allow the players to be able to sway this conflict without being able to dominate everything.
Brian: Now, let’s talk about the main character in the game, our ship. First off, apparently there will be several different ship classes — escort, frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battleship, flagship — but will there be different ship variations within these classes, or will these just be generic classes that we customize through crew and equipment?
Steven: For the most part a new ship gives you access to more component slots. Most of the customization is going to be crew and equipment. Do you want to focus on weapons like Ion Cannons and Plasma Torpedoes or defenses like Deflectors, Titanium Armor, or Point Defense? Do you want to just use brute force with your Ion Cannons or do you want to immobilize the enemy with Tractor Beams? Do you want to use automatic defenses like Point Defense or active counter measures like Chaff? When you have one slot left, do you add in another beam weapon for some more offense or add in a secondary engine so if the first is destroyed you can still flee with some useful amount of speed? I’m hoping that everyone will design completely unique ships.
Brian: What kind of detail will go into actually controlling the ship? Will it be a simple affair like moving your character around in Din’s Curse, or will it involve more detailed factors like inertia, time (to turn, accelerate, etc) and so on?
Steven: There is inertia, turn speeds, and acceleration but it’s really not any more complex to move than in Din’s Curse. You still just move towards the mouse cursor. Turning and starting to move are a bit slower, but everything is also a lot smoother.
Brian: Besides crew attributes, and attributes such as shields, armor and structure, will other details go into the makeup of your ship that can affect its speed, agility and so on?
Steven: Your ship has a bunch of other important attributes like speed, turn speed, attack (how accurately you hit the enemy), defense (how well you can avoid being hit), resistances (thermal, EM, kinetic, etc), and power load/max power load (each ship component has a specific power load, if above the max system performance degrades).
Brian: In regards to ship combat, how will that be handled? Will it be somewhat detailed like Starfleet Command or Starpoint Gemini — with different shield and weapon arcs, for example — or will it be a more simplistic affair? Where will combat take place? Will it be in real time out in the open expanses of space, or will it zoom into a more detailed arena-type view as in Starflight or Star Control II?
Steven: Combat will be real-time and in the open expanses of space. I don’t think we will have the complexities of things like weapon arcs. I think things like weapons arcs are really cool in turn based games, but get to be a bit much in real-time. Targeting in general will be pretty easy and simple. The tactics comes into play when you decide where to use your limited energy (beam weapons, tractor beam, torpedoes, etc), when and if you use an expensive consumable, whether or not to focus on offensive weapons or defensive measures, and when to run away.
Brian: Will the game take place just in space, or will your ship be able to land on planets as well? Can you go into what kind of planet interaction will be available to the player?
Steven: We are just focusing on the space part. While being able to land on planets would be cool we would rather have a really fun, polished space ship game rather than have lots of varying pieces that aren’t as fun.
Brian: Each game will have a number of races vying for control of the universe, with your ship running missions for one or more of them. Can you tell us more about how you’ll receive and manage these quests? (I’m a bit biased in that missions are my favorite part of games like this).
Steven: Most of the time quests come from the planet or ship that is in need. You can pick them up and solve them just like you normally would through an NPC. However the nice part of having FTL communications is a lot of the time you can pick up and/or solve quests from anywhere just by contacting the race in question. This doesn’t work for everything of course.
Brian: Since your game will have a dynamic economy with multiple resources like food, minerals, tech and credits, will you be able to play the game just by doing trade runs to make money and be able to avoid missions if you wish, or are missions integral to your ship’s growth and progress? Will you be able to use your ship to generate any of these resources, such as mining asteroids for minerals?
Steven: Most of the time, the resources that are really needed are woven into the quests. I don’t guarantee that it will make into the game but I think there will be at least some ways to generate the raw resources that the empires care about.
Brian: Finally, what kind of details are we looking at for the game’s release, such as how much of the game is finished, will there be a beta available for people who pre-order, and what kind of general release date should be hope for?
Steven: At this point we have a lot done, so I should probably name the game and officially announce it. :) I’m pretty sure we will do the pre-order beta thing again. I think that worked out really well for Din’s Curse. Currently I’m expecting us to ship the game sometime in the 1st quarter of 2012.