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Starfury interview #2

Starfury interview #2

Interview - posted by Saint_Proverbius on Sun 9 March 2003, 19:03:37

Tags: Aaron Hall; Malfador Machinations; Space Empires: Starfury

1.) For those readers who've never heard of Space Empires, can you explain the universe a bit for them? What appeal do you think this universe might have for new players?

Space Empires is a universe based on the idea of warp points and sub-light travel. The warp points allow your ships to travel from one solar system to another instantly. There is no travel between solar systems directly, only through this network of warp points. The Space Empires series is also known for its high level of modability (customization) by players, massive tech tree, and detailed ship design and combat.

New players find this layout of warp points very easy to understand and easy to get started with. Instead of flying out in all directions, the paths you can take are a bit more limited. But this limitation provides more drama in the fact that certain "choke points" are very important to control.

2.) Since Starfury is an RPG set in Space Empires' universe, will there be additional fleshing out of the universe beyond the strategy games?

Starfury will take players down to a level they haven't seen before in Space Empires. Many of the SE4 races will be present in Starfury and you'll be able to interact with them more directly. The best description I can give is that you will be the captain of an individual ship in the Space Empires universe.

3.) How are the species motivations, strengths and weaknesses presented in the game? How do they affect missions? Can you provide examples?

The races that are present have been tailored to be as true to their Space Empires counterparts as possible. For example, the Xiati are warlike and aggressive in SE, they are still the same in Starfury. And the races that typically ally themselves, are allied in the storyline of Starfury. We've created unique strategies and ship designs for each of the races with an eye on how they were used in Space Empires. We've also got Organic weapons and specific technologies that certain races used from SE.

We've even added two new races that were not present in SE4. The Pirates which hide out in the neutral territories, and an as yet unknown race...

4.) Along those lines, how do they affect the ship types for those species? Can you tell us the differences between the ship types for each race in terms of design and mechanics?

Each race has its own unique ship designs and appearance. Some races like the Fazrah, tend toward lighter faster ships, while the Xiati like heavy powerhouses. And each race has several different classes of each ship size. Sizes range from satellites and fighters, up through cruisers, battleships, and Starbases. Different kinds of adversaries will need to be tackled with different strategies. The Pirates like long range torpedo and missile weapons, so they use a strategy of keeping their distance and wearing you down. On the other hand, the Xiati and Abbidon are close in fighters and will close to point blank to use heavy beam weapons.

5.) When dealing with the species, do you have to deal with them differently based on who they are? How is interaction handled with the species?

Species interaction is not quite as detailed as it was in SE4. You will not be dealing with them on a whole, merely as individuals. And since relations aren't always cozy, you may need to stay in friendly space.

6.) You mentioned in the last interview that you can witness ships and species going about their daily business. Can you do things like follow them to learn the trade routes they run? Or patrol paths?

Definitely. Each species has a well defined territory, and operates within that area in relative safety. Then there are a large number of neutral systems that buffer the great powers. In these systems, all of the races operate, but safety is not assured. Pirates have hidden systems and bases from which they launch attacks on commerce. You will regularly find races partrolling their borders, freighter running cargo between systems, and even battles between warring races. If you decide to become a pirate mercenary, you can always prey on unsuspecting freighters yourself. But of course the owners of the freighter may send bounty hunters to track you down...

7.) Can you give us some examples of the random missions? Will there be random missions available to people other than combat ones?

There are a number of different areas you can specialize in. Missions cover things like simple cargo transport, scientific exploration, anomaly investigation, search and rescue, bounty-hunter, system patrol, freighter escort, etc. And of course you get paid based on the level of difficulty involved.

8.) One thing a lot of space trading games have difficulty with is an interface that makes trading less of a chore. How will the interface in Starfury facilite trade route management? Finding new trade routes?

All cargo runs are listed by prospective employers. And almost every mining or agricultural outpost will have a Commerce Guild where you can pickup new jobs.

9.) Can you shed a little light on the skills in the game? Will there be skills that affect things other than the ship piloting, such as trade skills or diplomacy? How do the piloting skills work?

Skills mainly cover piloting, combat, repair, and haggling. Diplomacy skills don't really come into it as the player is the one interacting. We didn't want to limit this interaction. As you increase experience, you will have points to spend on different skills. You can improve your crew targeting ability, repair ability of the ship and its systems, negotiation of prices with traders, etc.

10.) How are skills in the game advanced? Do they advance based on a level system? Through usage?

The game currently uses a level system which give you points to spend on the skills of your choice. These skills can also be augmented with special components that you find or purchase. You gain experience through completing missions, destroying adversaries, and exploration.

11.) Can you tell us a little bit about the cargo that's available in the game? How are the prices handled?

There is a multitude of different components in the game. Many will be familiar to Space Empires IV players as we've kept a number of them the same. There are ship systems such as Bridge, Life Support, Cargo Bays, Shield Generators, Armor, Engines, etc. And of course tons of weapons of different kinds such as torpedoes, beams, pulse cannons, point defense, etc. There are also scores of general cargo components that your ship will transport from planet to planet.

The base prices for components are set in the data files based on general value of the component (set by us). This base price is then modified by level of the component, location where you are buying it, how good your negotiation skills are, and the relative scarcity or abundance of that component in the area.

12.) The game is 3D, can you tell us how many degrees of freedom are offered in Starfury? Can you tell us about the ship control interface?

We played around with the idea of allowing full 3D movement in early prototypes of the game, but it became just too complex an unwieldly. Realism is a good goal, but not if it makes the game un-fun to play. So we limited movement to a 2D plane within the solar system. Not only is it easier to play, but it strongly reminds the player of Tactical Combat in Space Empires IV.

The ship control is done primarly through the mouse. You click the direction you want to travel and then set your speed. You right click to set firing targets or to get more information. You can click or use the keyboard to fire weapons from the different weapon banks that you define. You can set whichever weapons you want into each of the different banks.

13.) Lastly, will the story have outlets for the trader or is it mainly combat oriented?

We wrangled with this quite a bit in the development of Starfury. What we came up with is a mission progression that requires you be skilled in both. You start with simple trading skills and will need those skills throughout the game to keep your ship up to snuff. However, as the story unfolds, all out war will begin between some of the major powers and you will be sucked into the middle of it. This means, of course, that you will have to be able to defend yourself and carry out "aggressive" missions. In the end you will have be both an expert n trading and an expert in combat to survive all of the trials that are to come.

Look for Starfury this summer!

Thanks to Aaron Hall of Malfador Machinations for taking the time to answer these questions!

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