Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, lead game designer at Handyman Studios, Jacob Crane, talks Edge of Space, his space shark exploration game in beta and on Greenlight now.
What's your game called and what's it about?
The game we are working on is Edge of Space, and it is a 2D sandbox exploration game. You, one of the ArkCo Recruits, have been dropped into an area where terraforming should never have been attempted. Stranded in an unknown region of space on a busted-up planet where early terraforming protocols have gone horribly wrong, it's now up to you and whoever else you can find to overcome the obstacles ahead.
How is the beta going?
The beta is going very well. It has kept our feet on the ground and really helped us identify issues in the core system early on. Whenever you are developing multiplayer, we think it is key you get it out into the "wild" as soon as you can. We wanted to experiment with a different kind of development style to match our small team. After alpha, we pulled out all but the basic features for beta, and then started adding them back in layers as we found things were stable and the necessary iteration was put in place.
This is very much a bottom-up approach. To ensure our foundations are rock solid is paramount. Even though mod development is not being released right at release day, everything has already been made to support it when we do. This has served us very well. It does come with the drawback of not being able to show everything we want to, but it allows us make the code infinitely more stable.
How do you respond to comparisons to Terraria, but you know, with space sharks?
Players of Terraria will definitely notice some things that feel similar since we are expanding upon the genre – similar to how in all shooters you shoot guns. We will admit that there are parts of Edge of Space that will require a bit more thinking. Our crafting system starts off similarly since "X requirement met gets you Y thing," but as you get into more advanced crafting you have to start paying attention to other stats and it becomes a bit more like a puzzle. This will lead into another part of crafting we have not gone into too much detail yet. We wanted to offer a bit more progression to some systems and opt-in complexity.
Players of Terraria will definitely notice some things that feel similar since we are expanding upon the genre – similar to how in all shooters you shoot guns.
Another key feature would be our power system. It is necessary for the game instead of just an add-on, but you can keep your use of it to simple applications, but for those who want to get complex and innovative with it, there is the flexibility to do so.
We also have a concept of a co-op weapon. These are weapon abilities that happen based on mixing weapon types or two players using variable, complementary weapons. For example, in the beta, there is a weapon that tags an enemy and a rocket launcher that, if the rocket flies near a tagged enemy, will lock on and begin to track the target. The goal will be to make it so a skilled player could achieve these effects by himself, but working with others would make achieving the benefits much easier.
How important is the crafting aspect of Edge of Space?
Crafting is pretty important in the game. At the moment, we tend to follow the philosophy of loot-to-craft, instead of just straight loot-for-gear. The reason being, we like the player having some control on what they want to make. You might not get the best X type of weapon/item, but if you want that type of weapon/item you craft it, instead of having to hope you or one of your friends gets the weapon/item and is willing to give it to you.
What inspired you to make Edge of Space?
I think what really inspired us, at the core, was our love of multiplayer and sandboxes. Of course, Terraria was a clear inspiration. It really helped us visualize how to do the fully modifiable world in 2D form instead of 3D form. From there, Paul and I have strong roots in sandboxes and love for sandboxes. We both also love sci-fi and have a similar taste in sci-fi shows, like Farscape and Firefly. We enjoy that kind of dark but not too serious kind of sci-fi setting.
What's the coolest aspect of Edge of Space?
That is really hard to answer, as there are lots of little things I would say are really cool. I am really excited to be doing something Paul that I have wanted to experiment with for a long time. But I can't talk much about it right at this moment, only to say that it's really neat. Outside of that, I really enjoy creating critters.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
We can work closer with our team, be closer to our community, have a larger impact on many areas of the game, and smaller teams make it easier to be agile and switch up quickly. Since Paul and I became friends we have dreamed of creating a game company. This is what we want to do for the rest of our lives.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
I would like to think so! We have been reaching out to other indies and continue to do so while we develop. We love this space and I would love to meet every dedicated, passionate indie we can. I think indies are more empowered today more than ever.
Sell Edge of Space in one sentence:
Edge of Space is a 2D sandbox that takes elements from its predecessors and builds upon them with things like a deeper crafting system, more events, a different kind of spatial awareness, a universal goal, strong multiplayer support, mod support, reactive environment, and cybernetic rocket-powered laser sharks!
Right now, we are totally focused on Edge of Space. We also have a road map in place for updating the game for quite some time after release. We plan to let the community vote on patch options and drive the game forward with direct community input. This is just the start of Edge of Space. We have some pretty ambitious goals for the future and no shortage of game ideas in our library of prototypes for after that.
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.