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StarForge Developer Interview

JAlbor October 26, 2012 User blog:JAlbor
CodeHatchLogo
Wikia got a chance send CodeHatch, the developers behind StarForge, a set of questions about the game. Now we have come back with answers! Check out the resulting Q&A below to learn more about the game, its lore, and so much more!

1. What sci-fi has inspired the lore of your game?

With respect to the feel of our game we'd have to say bit of everything in science fiction, from StarCraft to StarShip Troopers, to even Tremors. But for the story itself we'd have to say that our main influence wasn't any sci-fi series but rather NASA and their new Orion Spacecraft that they are building to allow us to travel to places like Mars. We then combined this inspiration with a doomsday event where humanity is basically forced from Earth. Luckily, humanity knew of this scenario long enough in advance to send tons of weaponry, cargo, and materials to the new planet (Atlas) to better ensure their survival. To help prepare the planet for habitation, robots were sent to seed the land with common trees, grass, and food. Who knows, perhaps a future generation will be forced to move and survive on another planet? We thought this idea was fascinating and we are fully exploring it in StarForge.

Star Forge Space Background

2. Any hints at what kind of abilities will be available in the game?

Aside from the obvious abilities like running speed or accuracy with sniper rifles, abilities generally are the kinds of things we plan as we go along. It is hard to know when a good idea for one might pop up because the development of the game itself can inspire a lot of eureka moments. For example, a glitch in our movement code allowed players to climb up walls indefinitely, so why not make this an ability players can eventually unlock?

Each player in StarForge shares a set amount of skills, these skills range from mining, shooting, to building skills. To level these up you just simply use them. Characters will be able to level up infinitely in our game as we have no plans for any level caps.

Each character will also have their own unique abilities. For example, a woodsman can do an axe throw, a miner can scan to see what is underground, and a stealth and can cloak and hack power sources and turrets. We plan on offering many different play styles as we keep developing over the years.

3. If you had to pick your favorite hero in your game, which one would it be?

Gunner, seeing as how he has always been the only one fully implemented. Truth be told, we are planning on scrapping the idea of heroes since it doesn't fit with the spirit of user-customizability and procedural generation that the rest of our game has. In the near future we are going to be implementing a full character customization system. It will allow you to change the body shape, face, skin, ect. Plus craft different armor for your characters. And your characters abilities and unique personality will instead be attached to a sci-fi device on your belt which will be integrated into your body somehow.

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4. What are the benefits and disadvantages of being a small team?

To summarize it, you can do whatever you want... but you can only do so much. As a small team, everyone has an opportunity to innovate in their own way and freely explore their creativity, as there is plenty of room to take risks. The downfall is, of course, that you have a limited budget and limited supply of resources to do so. So, if one of us has a big idea, it'll be a long time before it comes to fruition, but at least it'll happen eventually.

Another obvious plus is that smaller teams are a lot more tightly nit. Our first employee, Nathan, is nothing short of a great friend to us. We all really enjoy working with each other. On top of this, Steve and Will still share an apartment and we also work out of that same apartment. Living and working in such close proximity easily keeps development really focused and has made a huge impact on how effectively and quickly we have been able to design and develop this game.

5. What is your thoughts on the game industry as a whole? It's future?

As a team we've never really had that much inside hands on experience of how most of the game industry operates. None of us have worked at another game company, Steve and Will started making their own games when they were 11 and just self taught themselves year after year, and Nathan had a couple years of University before joining.

We think that background helped keep us motivated to always keep pushing the envelope and never get comfortable with where we are. After all, we had nothing to lose! We really do feel that the game industry has only scratched the surface on what's possible, but unfortunately, due to large teams and tight schedules it's hard for many studios to expand beyond the core experiences we've grown to know very well. This is a path we don't want to take, even if we find success one day we always plan to remain a small tight nit studio with no more than 5-10 people working at anytime.

One area that we believe can be expanded upon in the future of games is Artificial Intelligence. We have many ideas on how we want the players to interact with A.I in the future and plan on development them soon. Another area that we think is going to be huge is procedural generation. We firmly believe that this is the answer to making a lot of really high end content in very small amounts of time. Finally, we believe in the players creating their own content in game through our systems. We always joke around here that maybe one day when were old and gray, we can develop something where people can just say what kind of game or experience they want and it will appear on screen for them.

Star Forge Canyon 1

6. How do you view the relationship between games and their wikis?

Wikis provide a unique opportunity to see the relationship between games and gamers, what they like, what they take notice of, what developers overlooked, and so on. As such I can see it as being a very useful reference for us, especially since we released our game to the public so early on. Plus, it's really amazing how much dedication people demonstrate - not just for its gameplay but the universe and narrative built around it as well.

StarForge is a game that will have tons of content one day and a wiki is the only way to document this all and make it easier for newcomers to understand it's universe.

7. What will the next developments for the alpha-phase be?

Plenty of improvements, fixes and optimization. For the non-boring stuff, we've got plans for multiplayer, procedural weapons, save games, destruction physics, vehicles, AI, character customization, and much more. During our IndieGoGo campaign we are just going to be polishing the multiplayer, movement, and procedural weapons and focusing on optimization to get our game running faster and on more computers. Shortly after the campaign ends we will be releasing a new version with multiplayer and procedural weapons.

We also always like to be doing something super innovative in secret. And we are already working on another big element that will be announced in the future.

8. The multiplayer in the video looked very interesting tell us more about how it plays?

Our multiplayer really feels completely different than any other shooter out there. We think this has to do with the physics movement. Every bullet that impacts your body you can feel. So for example, if you run at someone with your chainsaw and they shoot back at you using a huge chaingun, your run will become a stop and you'll be flung back. This makes the game very interesting as you have to character calculate your opponents advantage versus yours before just charging in.

It is also very fun building forts and defense in real-time and mixing this all with vehicles. Making ramps or tunnels in the ground, digging trenches, all of this really adds up to a unique experience. We are adding flight into the game as well. In our latest video we had a chainsaw battle on a large cargo ship in outer space. Players can also pilot these ships, then get out of their seats, walk around the ship, and even jump out! We hope this system will produce some amazing battles in the future when everyone is playing.

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9. What kind of weapon development can one expect?

We expect that our procedural weapons system is one of the first things people will take notice of. Scattered throughout the infinite terrain are buried and hidden weapons cases, and each one contains a unique weapon designed by the computer. Each one looks different, fires differently, feels different, and you'll never come across another one like it.

Weapons also employ a rarity system and have different levels assigned to them. But unlike other games, if you find a really high level weapon in our game, were still going to let you shoot it. However, it will be so powerful that you will be able to barely aim it.

The lower level weapons in our game basically look like what you would see in all other games. But as you get higher levels, more barrels are added on, elements, etc. You can also mix and match weapons using our procedural system, so you can have a chainsaw bayonet, or two if you wish.

You will also be able to build your weapons piece by piece in our game. This allows the player to build whatever type of weapon they want given they have the right amount of resources to do so. Repairing weapons will also be a huge part of our gameplay. For example, you can break off other peoples barrels and scopes in StarForge. This makes aiming feel very strategic as you can really gain the upper advantage by destroying part of your opponents weapon.

All the different weapons were originally sent by different weapons companies back on earth in chests to prepare humanity for their survival on planet Atlas. Some companies produce only certain elemental types of weapons as others are more basic. But as a joke, we are going to put in a company with really sub-standard weapons, basically "joke weapons". Examples of these would be a rocket launcher with a flame thrower attached to it, or a chainsaw with a blade extending towards the player.

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10. How will weapons impact the building of areas/buildings?

All buildings will be fully destructible in a future release of StarForge and some weapons will have special traits which make them more adept at destroying certain materials than others - some may shoot fire, electrical charges, explosives, acid bombs, and so forth. We hope this will encourage players to anticipate how hostiles might try to breach their defenses.

For example, a Flame Thrower would easily ignite a wooden fort and start forest fires. So if your team decides to take the easy route and quickly build a wooden fort (trees are easy to harvest) , they will always face the risk that the other team is investing in Flame Throwers.

Another example would be a metal fort. If it is raining outside and someone uses an electricity gun on it, the players on top would get fried. This of course wouldn't hurt the fort, but the players, whereas in the previous example it would burn the fort down, but the players would have a chance to escape.

Stone forts are a good alternative to protect against electricity and fire. However, they are quite susceptible to tremors, wrecking balls, and drills.

This is why strategy is important when building your fort. You have to anticipate what your enemy may try and use against you. And you have to determine the location of the resources you need and how risky it will be to obtain them.

11. How much will the audience be involved in affecting future game development?

We're always keeping track of what our fans want, and we hope to always develop openly with our community. We try to engage with the community through all means of social media. It is quite enjoyable to have such great fans that anxiously look forward to each new release, and we equally look forward to their feedback so we can keep developing the game to be better and better.

A brand new initiative we just launched is The StarForge Vote. This will allow you to vote on a large number of things we know we can implement into the game. Such as what weapons, spacecraft, vehicles, ect. are developed by us next. It can be found here, it is open to everyone! - http://starforge.userecho.com/

Star Forge Canyon 5

12. How will the sandbox-structure of the game support user levels? Do you want levels to be created only by players or a combination of user-generated content and levels designed by you?

Our goal with StarForge is for the computer to generate levels on the fly as the user travels. A computer can do so indefinitely - human designers cannot. However, this does not limit us from using user generated content or our own specially designed content in combination with purely procedural generation. The computer can borrow level designs from us our our userbase, or it can algorithmically create its own.

Another thing we are experimenting with is symmetrical maps created procedurally. So you can imagine for our Fort Wars mode we don't want any team having an advantage so the maps would have to be generally the same on each side. As for future user level content, we are putting in saving system, and we don't see any reason why the user won't be able to save their level changes and then send that level to their friends to play on.

We also plan to have future modding support.

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