I love space games. And for a long time, it’s been tough out there for people like me. Almost overnight though, it seems we’ve turned a corner. Elite: Dangerous is more awesome with every build, Star Citizen is breaking records, No Man’s Sky is gorgeous and surreal, and Enemy Starfighter looks amazing. I can’t wait to play all of them!
Now Double Damage is throwing our hat in the, ring too, but with something very different. We wanted to build a swashbuckling space game, one filled with weird aliens, backwater bartenders, lawless pirates, and epic space battles. A game with a galaxy to explore, characters to befriend or enrage, and the random element that’s been in so many of the games we’ve worked on.
Rebel Galaxy isn’t set in a shiny, modern future — it’s a greasy, rusty place on the edge of the known universe, where the ships are barely holding it together, and the people are, too. It’s a sandbox galaxy where you play the character you want. Are you a devious mercenary, collecting bounties? A crafty trader who hires protection wherever she goes? A pirate, preying on convoys? A roguish do-gooder? Maybe a little of each? You’ll fight, trade, negotiate, escape, explore, scavenge, mine, ingratiate, and intimidate.
We’ve played lots of space-flight games, and they almost invariably involve chasing a reticle, sliding in behind another fighter and blowing them to bits, or making a hectic bombing run on a destroyer.
With Rebel Galaxy we’re flipping that around — YOU fly the big, weapon-bristling ships here, with huge quantities of firepower, turrets, volleys of rockets, and massive broadside blasts. It’s closer to naval combat, if naval combat had lasers, space fighters, shields, and warp-drives and was about ten times faster.
You can decimate a group of fighters in seconds, manning turrets or lining them up in your broadsides. You can also assign AIs to the stations on your ship, having them target or prioritize specific enemies. Do you want your particle turret to focus on picking off fighters, or instead to weaken the defenses of larger enemy craft? It can do that while you’re blowing the crud out of a neighboring destroyer.
One of the big challenges of figuring out a new combat system is mapping it all to a controller. We weren’t content to have the old primary/secondary weapon setup — we wanted you to feel like you had a wide variety of weapons and options at your disposal. And we wanted you to be able to actively maneuver yourself to take advantages of the weaknesses in an opponent, or to dodge an incoming volley of torpedoes, or to weave between the derelicts of old ships.
This took a ton of iteration — but the end result lets you steer your ship while rapidly switching between broadsides, or manning an individual turret which smartly locks onto targets. Getting the camera to help you out and to anticipate the targets that you want to be shooting was another big part of the equation — there’s a LOT going on, but we want it to feel natural. Context-sensitive actions were also important to cramming all the functionality we wanted into the controller.
The cool thing about all this is that you really can become very skillful — it’s not just a numbers game. Anticipating another cruiser’s particle blast and dodging behind an asteroid, letting him burn it out on the surface, then emerging from the other side and unloading a flight of heatseekers and puncturing his hull is extremely satisfying!
Erich and I have spent a lot of time working on action-RPGs. We worked together on Torchlight and Torchlight 2, and before that Erich co-created Diablo and Diablo II. The funny thing is, in many ways Rebel Galaxy has more actual role-playing in it. The things you say, and the choices you make, have an actual effect on how other people (or aliens… or robots…) interact with you.
A faction system underpins our conversation system. You can hail a merchant and demand he drop his cargo, but the merchant’s faction will remember it. Maybe they’ll send bounty hunters to track you down. Assist the militia, and they might agree to lend a hand with a combat run you’re undertaking. If you beg, that pirate might only take half your cargo!
We have a phonetic matching system, so the conversations are lipsynched, and the characters are expressive. This has been a lot of fun to do, and adds a lot of character to the game.
Backing this up we’ve got a cool blues and rock soundtrack. It sounds weird, but trust us, it works. Hearing that slide guitar kick in while you warp through a nebula is pretty great.
We’re excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on. This has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had building a game. Space games are back, there may even be a lot of them now, but we think we are bringing some genuinely new gameplay to the table.
We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section. We’ll try to answer as best we can. Thanks!