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RPG Codex Interview: Faster Than Light, Spaceship Simulation Roguelike
Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 29 April 2012, 14:51:51Tags: Faster Than Light; Kickstarter; Subset Games
FTL: Faster Than Light is a "spaceship simulation roguelike(-like)" developed by the two-man company Subset Games based in Shanghai, China, that recently got $200,000 on Kickstarter, with only $10,000 being the initial funding goal. Faster Than Light focuses on the inner workings of a spaceship - its systems, subsystems, drones, weapons, ammo, augmentations, and last but not least its crew - as it travels throughout the galaxy, jumping from sector to sector and getting involved in random events that pop up along the way.
Via random events, the spaceship you control encounters friendlies, gets under attack, meets new alien races, gathers valuable resources, conducts trade, and explores anomalies. When attacked, you must manage the functioning of your ship's systems by ordering your crew around in real time (with pause) to put out fires and do repairs, all the while making sure they don't blow up or run out of oxygen. The game includes varied ship design, multiple races with different play styles, and gameplay-related text events. Apart from firing their weapons at you, enemies may board your ship, further endangering the meager health bars of your crew members. In addition, your ship may take damage from environmental factors, which are also randomized. FTL features permadeath and random loot drops, as well as an overarching end goal (so that you can "win" the game the way you win a roguelike), yet to be disclosed. The game gets more and more challenging as you progress, so that constant and careful upgrade and crew management is required if you want to reduce the randomness factor somewhat and survive for considerable time.
The core of the ship's systems that you can upgrade consists of Shields, Engines, Oxygen, Weapon Control, and Medbay, but there are also additional things such as Cloaking, Drone Control or Crew Teleporter. Among the subsystems are Door System, which lets you open and close doors remotely and even upgrade them to "blast doors" that delay fire spread and intruder movement, Piloting, which improves the ship's auto-piloting and dodging, and Sensors that help more fully reveal the interior of an enemy spaceship. Augmentations include (but are not limited to) such devices as Long-Ranged Scanners, Automated Reloader and Advanced FTL Navigation, and the weapons you can buy also vary in type and purpose, ranging from bombs to laser and missiles. Another important factor to keep in mind is Fuel: make sure not to run out of it!
Prior to launching the tremendously successful Kickstarter campaign, the game received honorable mentions for Excellence in Design at the Independent Games Festival 2012, where it was a competitor for the Grand Prize, and made it to the final of China Independent Games Festival 2011. It also had a dedicated thread here on the Codex, which got many of our regulars interested in the game. Unfortunately, however, not everyone had the chance to try out the game's demo that was only available for a limited period of time via OnLive. Therefore, as the game nears its beta (currently scheduled for May), we have reached out to Justin Ma and Matthew Davis of Subset Games to ask them a few questions about the game, the things they plan on adding for the beta, and related matters.
Why did you choose to do a spaceship simulation roguelike, and what are the main inspirations behind FTL's concept? (For one, the spaceship design reminds me a lot of SunDog: Frozen Legacy.)
We wanted to create a spaceship management game that focused on what was going on inside the player’s ship: what does the crew do when the captain yelled “divert power from weapons to shields and cut life-support to the engine room!”.
As a newly formed two-man independent company developing its first title, what is the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
FTL focuses on the inner workings of a ship under attack while doing away with space combat management in the traditional sense. Was this design decision there from the start? If given a larger budget and more time, would you introduce full-fledged space combat on top of what you already have?
One of our early builds involved managing relative spatial positions of your ship in addition to managing the crew and power distribution. Overall it was chaotic and not fun. The real turning point in development was when we decided to maintain static views of the interior of ships. We felt focusing on this style of gameplay was unique and still quite challenging.
Exclusive screenshot: A newly introduced player-ship in the style of the Engi alien race. It usually relies heavily on drones and ion weaponry. You can also see a friendly Federation Bomber.
One question bound to be asked by our readers is -- why real-time with pause rather than turn-based (as roguelikes usually are) or pure real-time?
What do you feel are the greatest strengths of the roguelike genre, and how do they come into play in FTL?
We tried to pull our favorite aspects from the roguelike genre and put them into FTL. This can be seen in the randomly generated galaxy, the way unexpected loot influences your strategy, how permadeath dramatically increases tension, and an end-state that seems just out of reach.
In FTL, text events that pop up as you jump from star to star are 100% gameplay-focused, leading to things like trading, receiving help or being lured into a trap, and acquiring or losing crew members and other resources.
With its streamlined interface, FTL seems to be developed with a more casual audience in mind compared to "hardcore" roguelikes. What will the game have to offer to a veteran roguelike player? How do you ensure that such a player finds enough variety and depth in the game's mechanics to warrant multiple replays?
Our ultimate goal is to have an intense and difficult game where each failure can be traced back to a decision the player has made; making them want jump back in with their knowledge and strategy refined.
If I got this right, you plan on introducing a higher difficulty option to the game. What exactly is going to change between difficulty levels?
In FTL, text events that pop up as you jump from star to star are 100% gameplay-focused, leading to things like trading, receiving help or being lured into a trap, and acquiring or losing crew members and other resources. In that, they are handled refreshingly different from the story-driven approach dominating the industry today. Do you plan on adding more story-focused "fluff" events?
Ship upgrades are an extremely important asset to your survivability. Throughout the galaxy, you collect scrap parts that represent the current number of upgrade points you have.
In general, compared to the demo, to what extent would you want the story and setting to be more fleshed out by the time of release?
In the demo, you are only given one spaceship, the Kestrel. How many types of player and enemy ships can we look forward to in the game, and what are the differences between them going to be?
You must have replayed FTL a thousand times already. What is the most intense situation, the most memorable FTL story to happen to you personally?
Be advised: it can get hot, very hot in FTL! And you better avoid letting intruders board your ship!
What are the most important features you are still to implement before release, and have your plans changed in any way now that you have collected $200k via Kickstarter instead of the $10k you initially asked for?
Do you believe that, as a way of independent game publishing, crowdfunding can significantly influence the industry in a positive way?
We thank Justin and Matthew for their time and look forward to the beta!
Official FTL website
Official alpha gameplay video