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During Gamescom we’ve had a chance to witness the real-time demo of Everspace and talk a little with Michael Schade from ROCKFISH Games. ROCKFISH Games is a team of talented game developers from Germany, who have been working on space games for a while now. Before founding their new company they did quite a lot of work for Fishlabs Entertainment, known for their amazing Galaxy on Fire series of space sims for smartphones.
Michael Schade: One of the reasons why we left mobile, was because we were making paid games. We don’t really like free-to-play. I do understand how it works and it can be super-successful, it’s not really like making games, as we used to do and as we like to do. Actually two years ago we’ve been kicked out of our own studio and we had to start from scratch. We had literally nothing. Then we signed a console deal and it was unfortunately cancelled in 9 months and we had to start all over again. But it was always for the better.
Here’s a little transcript of our talk, where we discuss the production of Everspace.
Picking up the right Mechanics
Unlike some other companies, who used to make mobile games before, ROCKFISH is very careful about the things it promises. Everspace is not open world, it won’t give you access to the entire universe and you can’t land on planets. Instead, you get an amazing, UE4-powered visual masterpiece, with polished shooting mechanics, lots of customization and rogue-like mechanics.
Michael Schade: The team on this project is fantastic. We’ve been working together from more than 10 years now in space shooters. We’re focusing on space combat. We do have some exploration things and you can do some scavenging and mining. It’s single-player only. We’re a small team and multiplayer is a lot of work. We’re going for the roguelike mechanic, which kind of generates similar unpredictable gameplay. People do understand that dying is part of the experience.
Finding the Right Partners
Michael Schade: It was very cool doing a live demo in front of all those people at the Xbox Booth at Gamescom. They give out t-shirts, wind up the crowd. It’s fantastic working with Microsoft. As an indie studio, you don’t get that exposure! We’re working with them through their self-publisher program for indies on Xbox. This definitely helps us to get more eyeballs. They actually reached out to us themselves, after the Kickstarter campaign. After that, it took just 4 weeks to get a deal with them. I get a feeling that for indies, Microsoft is a better partner right now. They have more people on the ground, they do a great job at selling digital content. Development-vise it’s also pretty good, since we’re working with DirectX 12, and for us at Everspace we need 64-bit precision for the shaders. it just doesn’t work in Open GL as intended.
Epic Games was a great partner. They do give us a lot of exposure. And most recently we’ve got their dev grant, which is both a nice addition to our budget and it also gives us additional marketing, helps to spread the word about the game.
Money & Independence
Michael Schade: During our Kickstarter campaign we’ve raised over 420.000 euros and then we raised another 250.000 USD through our own website. Then we raised some money, signed some console deals. The total budged for the title is actually 3 million. We’re not your typical indie studio with less than 5 guys and less than a million in the accounts. Everspace is a AA-title now. You have to understand that ‘indie’ really means independent. And you are only independent if you have enough money to do what you want. Typically indie studios are super dependent on their next deal, on the next check that’s coming. It’s not that easy. Especially for us. Everybody on the team is 30+, except for our junior artist. You have a different life now. But on the other side, our team is super experienced. Everyone has over 10 years of game development under their belt. Yes, they don’t get like 2k per month, but you get the shit done and you get high-quality product in the end.
About No Mans Sky
Michael Schade: I think they’ve made a mistake. They’ve created a space game, which is huge in terms of features, but the features and mechanics are really shallow. We, on the other hand, have a very narrow feature, but it does have a lot of depth to it. They only did one game before (Joe Danger) and now they come up with this monster. That’s the whole reason why we only have space combat in our title. Landing on the planets is its own game.
We do have procedural generated locations in Everspace. But all the stuff we use during these generations was carefully constructed. To create a nice space scene you don’t actually need a lot of stuff: a skybox, some asteroids, a Sun, maybe a space station and a Nebula. But then you start to do the variations and make sure that these props they are super polished and they work well together. If the whole planet is procedurally generated, you might run into some big problems.
Everspace will be released on PC on September 14th, 2016.
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.