Dreadnought: From Spec Ops to Spaceship Battles

Dreadnought game director Peter Helzapfel explained how the love for great art and technology allowed Yager to build an impressive online action.

Dreadnought is one of those rare games that has its own iconic look. It’s an online shooter where giant slow spaceships destroy each other. The project has amazing style developed by Mathias Wiese and an incredible technology provided by Unreal Engine 4, but the real success of this online title is the result of the close collaboration between Yager, 6 Foot & Grey Box.

Having moved away from the dark and gritty Spec Ops: The Line the company decided to return to its roots and create an incredibly detailed online experience. Although it may seem similar to World of Tanks or World of Warships, this game has it’s own style and very unusual flow. We’ve met with executive creative director Tony Medrano (6 Foot) and game director Peter Holzapfel (Yager) and discussed Dreadnought, its technology and Art.

The Style of Dreadnaught

Peter Holzapfel: I guess you could say that our art director Mathias Wiese is the one who was the main person behind the style of Dreadnought. He actually grew up in Eastern Germany and back then he liked drawing. He really liked “Airwolf” TV-show and he was drawing helicopters all the time. His teacher saw that and forbidden him to do that because those helicopters looked like Soviet military tech. Mathias switched to spaceships and his passion for incredible space vehicles began.

Dreadnought Art by Mathias Wiese

Dreadnought Art by Mathias Wiese

Dreadnought Art by Mathias Wiese

His ships still have a lot of influences from Russian old military tech, contemporary tech and even Apple designs. But it’s not like the game is a led by an artist. It’s a collaborative effort. We don’t get ahead of each other. If Mathias would always have his way, this game would never run. The production, art and tech are always working together and that’s one of the biggest strength of Yager. There’s no denying that Mathias is the real driver for the team. He’s always pushing others and strives to achieve perfection. You can really tell that he was drawing those spaceships from when he was a little kid.

Getting Back To The Roots

Tony Medrano: Studio’s first game was Yager. It was a combat flight simulator video game, so there’s a lot of flying in the company’s DNA. The studio later moved a little bit away from this and tried to do something different, but they always wanted to come back to this genre. The team has been cooking this idea for a really very long time. They really wanted to do something different and go back science fiction.

Dreadnought Screenshots

When we actually met with the Yager, they already had a really rough prototype but the main idea was there. At the time it was just big capital ships, but even that felt incredibly cool and unique. We pretty much jumped all over it and started work. 6 Foot joined the game very early during pre-production. At the time there were no classes, just big epic ships that roamed the skies.

Dreadnought Screenshots

The temptation was to make it very complex. However the whole idea gradually changed. We’ve figured out a way to give the users a possibility to interact with these massive spaceships and to get that sci-fi experience we were aiming at like Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars. We wanted to keep it very unique and very accessible with a lot of depth. Everyone can be attracted by it and really get lost in all the possibilities when they really get into it.

Dreadnought Screenshots

Once we started work, we shortly realized that having different classes really makes a lot of sense. The whole sci-fi universe gave us these hints. Scouts, heavy dreadnaughts, fighters and medics – you can kind of find them in any big fantastic film.

Classes really made the whole gameplay different. You make think that Dreadnought shares some aspects of World of Warships but in reality it’s a completely different project.

Developing alongside Unreal Engine 4

Peter Holzapfel: Preproduction of Dreadnought kicked off in July 2013. The team size of this project is 37 people. We’ve actually thrown everything we had before that (I mean our prototype) and started the whole development from clean sheet. We’ve switched to Unreal Engine 4.

Dreadnought Screenshots

There’s a lot of good engines out there but UE4 is really the kind of technology that really fits our needs. In terms of prototyping, the Blueprint system is a great help. It’s a visual scripting language that enables the designer to build prototypes without a lot of programming involved. UE4 is a work in progress engine. We were actually one of the first developers who started using this technology. The engine was actually developing alongside the game.

Dreadnought Screenshots

The way Dreadnought looks and feels makes us really proud. But it’s hard to tell what played the biggest part during its development. The engine is very important of course, but a lot depends on the conceptual approach. With us it was very important to figure out the main elements of the picture should be most detailed. Terrain did not have the highest details and was not very expensive. But it terms of ships – it was very important to have all the guns, all the rockets and other machinery to look as pretty as possible. We’re lucky to have such great professionals at Yager. With relatively small staff we can do things that would require much more people in other companies. The focus is very important. So you need to figure out what is important and stick to it, don’t drift away too much.

Dreadnought will be released sometime during 2016. Be sure to check out the open beta, when it will be available. It’s a very impressive title with incredible visuals and vast open environments. It seems like a great project for Yager team with its meticulous attention to detail.
Another great example of UE4 usage for online games.

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