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Interview with Ambrosia Software's Andrew Welch

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Interview with Ambrosia Software's Andrew Welch

Codex Interview - posted by Spazmo on Tue 15 July 2003, 03:14:19

Tags: Ambrosia Software; Escape Velocity Nova

1. Tell us about yourself and the company you work at, Ambrosia Software. When did you get your start and what kind of products have you put out?

Ambrosia Software, Inc. has been developed games and utilities for the Macintosh for over a decade. I originally started the company in college, and decided that computers would be a better way to go than photography (which was my major in college), so I took it from there.

We've been Macintosh-only for quite some time, but flirted with the Windows market when we released the role fantasy playing game Pillars of Garendall in late 2001.

2. What kind of games are the Escape Velocity series? And what specifically does Nova bring over the previous games?

The Escape Velocity series has been quite popular because of the open-ended gameplay it offers, with compelling scripted story lines intermingled to spice up the action. It's really quite hard to quantify what the games are like, because there are many different approaches you can take in playing, but loosely, they are a blend of space role playing/action games with a high fun factor.

EV Nova ratchets up the technology used in the gaming engine several notches, while keeping all of the fun core elements of EV Nova. There are plenty of games that have better graphics than the EV series, but few seems to approach the fun factor the games offer. Also the games are open-ended, in that people can create "plugins" that enhance, alter, or even completely replace the game, which keeps it fresh for years.

3. What made you decide to port EVN to PC? And what made you choose the Mac as a primary platform to develop games for?

We decided to port EV Nova to the PC because we received many requests from Windows users to port the game. Initially we were a bit hesitant to do so, but one day I was reading a thread on our web boards that was detailing the agonizing lengths Windows users were going through in order to play the older EV games on their computers. I decided it was time to give it a shot.

We develop for the Macintosh because those are the computers we like and use. I really don't care what platform/OS people decide they prefer, just as I don't really care what kind of car people they decide to drive.

4. Give us some information on the setting of the game, the galaxy that EVN takes place in. How do the various factions and governments affect gameplay?

EV Nova takes place in a sprawling galaxy, with a number of major races. I don't want to give away much of anything, because the exquisite writing in EV Nova unravels the plot lines in wonderful ways, and I'd hate to ruin it for people.

An interesting thing about the gameplay in EV Nova is that you can play it a number of times, but taking different core choices, which results in seeing the world from the point of view of the other major factions in the galaxy.

All together, the plotlines available from all of the factions in EV Nova weave together a very interesting tapestry.

5. Has Contraband Entertainment?the team responsible for the port?added any new content to the game or made any improvements, or is it a straight port? Are there any changes that had to be made because of the different platform?

EV Nova is a straight port, other than making sure it behaves as a proper Windows application should. There are subtleties that were changed to make the game work as a good Windows citizen, but nothing was changed regarding the game itself.

6. One of the game?s most important features is the ability for users to create plugins that can expand the game significantly. How have these plugins helped to improve the game so far?

People have done all kinds of things with the plugins, from simple cheats to "TC's" or "total conversions" that simply use the EV engine to deliver a similar but entirely different game in terms of graphics, story line, etc.

We're also making available our own "total conversions" for EV Nova for Windows (and the Mac) coinciding with the release of EV Nova for Windows that allow you to play the older to games (Escape Velocity and EV Override) on Windows using the EV Nova engine. People are really getting 3 games in one here.

7. Tell us about the story of Escape Velocity Nova. Is there a main story arc that more or less confines players into a given course of action, or does the game work on more of a ?sandbox? model and let the player do whatever he wants within a given galaxy?

The game is a mix of both. There are plotlines that once you make certain critical decisions, you're set on that path, but there is quite a bit of sandbox playing as well.

8. Is the gameplay mostly centered on combat between ships? If no, what other elements comprise the gameplay and how do they work?

I would say a very important part of the gameplay is the wonderful universe that is brought alive by a combination of imaginative graphics, and wonderful writing. There's quite a bit of story here.
But the story is balanced by plenty of blowing stuff up, too. :) There is also trading, pirating, and plenty of other gameplay elements to spice things up along the way. Just try to contain your envy for the guys who are flying around in Starbridges. :)

9. What are the different kinds of missions we can expect to accomplish in EVN? Is it possible to play the game without entering the mission structure at all?

Yeah, you could certainly play the game without doing any missions at all if you really wanted to. I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but if you want to buy an asteroid miner and go to a quiet corner of the galaxy to make a living mining, by all means, go for it.

10. EVN allows players to temporarily leave their ships in order to board disabled ships. How is this handled? Does the game switch to a different perspective and allow the player to directly control their character?

No, the interface is very simple for boarding ships; you have odds calculated based on a number of factors, and you either managed to plunder the ship or not. Just be careful that it isn't rigged to explode on you when you try it.

11. Are there any more games in the Escape Velocity line coming? If so, will they ever grace the PC?

Absolutely. We've already released Pillars of Garendall for Windows, and just a month ago or so, we released a very cool Xevious-style shoot 'em up game for Windows called Deimos Rising that's just a blast to play.

We are also currently in the middle of porting pop-pop to Windows, and we can't wait until it is done, because then we'll have more people to play against over the network. pop-pop is an interesting fusion between breakout and Street Fighter, drawn in Anime style with a pulsing sound track, and the ability to smack down the pop-fu against other players over the Internet (or local network).
After that, who knows? :)

12. Finally, if you have any general message you?d like to deliver to our readers, something you want to say that wasn?t covered by the questions, now is the time.

Don't name your EV Nova pilots "Kenny" :)

Thanks a bunch to Andrew Welch for answering our questions!

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