Filip Coulianos talked about the world and gameplay of the co-op space game Hyperspace, mentioned the solar flare effect created for it, and shared Keepsake Games' plans for the future.
My name is Filip Coulianos, and I've been a professional game developer for about 11 years, working at several larger studios such as Starbreeze, DICE, and most notably, Hazelight. I was the lead level designer at Hazelight for about 7 years, where I worked on Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out, and of course, It Takes Two, which got wonderful reception and is a project I'm especially proud of. I also worked on Mirror's Edge: Catalyst and Syndicate. So yeah, it's been quite a ride so far.
I became interested in game development back in 1998 when Half-Life came out. I realized that on the CD-ROM, there was a level editor included, and as soon as I realized that there were tools to make these amazing experiences, I was completely hooked. I did lots of modding and levels for Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, and things like that during my teens, and then went off to university to study game development right away.
Professionally, I've always worked with level design, but in my spare time, I've always had projects running where I did lots of programming, 3D, and all the stuff I didn't do during work hours to gain a deep understanding of the trade. It's been tremendously helpful to work at studios with such amazing talent where it's been very easy to approach artists, animators, and coders to have a look into how they work. I've always been able to ask for advice and gain a good understanding of how professionals work just by looking around the office.
Keepsake Games is a very new and small studio here in Stockholm, Sweden. There are five of us who founded the company, and then we've grown to about ten developers on-site and another roughly five contractors spread around Europe. Since we are a small group, we tend to hang out at the office a lot, as we are not really into working from home the same way most of the rest of the industry seems to have adopted. We believe that creativity truly comes when people sit face to face and discuss things. And of course, we really enjoy each other's company much more than sitting home alone.
Hyperspace has been a passion project for many years. It started when I watched a video of a game called Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. It's essentially a blend between roleplaying and a computer game where several players play different roles on the bridge of a Star Trek-style ship. Lots of the dynamics happen outside of the game between the players, and there are some amazing fan videos on YouTube that I found really interesting. When I looked at the game itself, however, I felt there was some room for improvement, and I thought I had enough knowledge to try it out and make something better—that's how it all started.
In the end, Hyperspace didn't turn out at all like Artemis, but that's how it goes sometimes. You need to listen to what the game wants to be and really try to be sensitive and feel your way forward.
In one sentence, Hyperspace is Sea of Thieves meets FTL; it's a first-person co-op game where you and your friends play as the crew on a spaceship. Engines, weapons, and systems are all simulated, and you can walk up to the engines to repair them or replace the cannons by walking up to them and swapping them for something better you've found. Entering and exiting the spaceship is completely seamless, so you can walk out on the hull and do repairs or dive straight into space with your jetpack and a rocket launcher, taking on enemy ships yourself if you'd like.
The game world is a very old universe where civilizations have come and gone; it's filled with old tales and much mystique. Our heroes are a remnant of an old tribe still clinging to their freedoms in the outer rim.
It's all created using Unity 2021. We use Modo for 3D, Substance for texturing, a little bit of Houdini for some geometry, and then Rider for programming. Pretty much standard, we don't have a very unique pipeline. We try to stay with what's worked before, essentially.
The game is centered around co-op, so you'll need your friends quite a lot to progress. During an emergency or firefight, you will need to have someone flying the ship, someone manning the turrets, and then one or two people need to keep an eye on components failing, fires erupting, and keeping the ship intact. But there's complete freedom in how you want to tackle the problem. You can all also leave the player ship armed to the teeth with handheld anti-ship weapons, grappling onto the larger enemy ships and blow them up on foot.
That's moment to moment. If we zoom out a little, the point of the game is to keep upgrading your ship (it's essentially your Diablo character). Better engines, weapons, sensors, and armor help you keep going and jumping further into the storyline.
When hunting for components, you sometimes leave the ship and explore asteroids, mines, derelict ships, and shoot enemy AI on-foot as well, so there's quite a lot of variation in your activities as a player.
Solar Flare Effect
To make sure we have as much variation as possible and to keep the players on their toes, we have an AI sitting in the background that sometimes throws some surprises at you. It could be an asteroid shower, enemy ships attacking, an ambush, or a solar flare. The solar flare is somewhat of a panic moment where the players have to drop whatever they are doing, get inside as quickly as possible, and move the ship into the cover of an asteroid or somewhere away from the sun for a minute or two as the storm passes by to minimize damage. We have lots of other fun ideas in the pipeline for events like this that could happen at any time!
We have a Discord channel where anyone is welcome to join. We are a very small but very nice community where anyone is welcome to ask questions, and we share images and videos of the development very openly. Since we are a small studio, we don't have any pressure from a big publisher or a huge IP that needs protection, so we basically are very honest with the community, which is a huge contrast to how things have been for us in the past and very refreshing! In the future, when the game becomes more fleshed out and playable, we will, of course, keep the community much more involved and have them play builds and listen to their feedback. But for now, we mostly share content from our game to keep the level of excitement up there.
We are currently working on polishing quite a lot visually to make the game more presentable; the solar flare is one example of that, which has been looking quite pale and boring for some time. We are also dead-focused on balancing and making the game stable so we can, as soon as humanly possible, have builds we can share with the community and collect feedback. The best way to follow us is on our Discord channel, as I previously mentioned. Anyone is welcome to ask anything, and we are very open about the development and the features we have in the game. I think everyone can expect much more content and clips coming from us this year as we are steadily headed towards a better-looking and more polished game by the day!