If you’re going to evolve the action RPG/loot grinding genre, then there’s no better team to do it than Double Damage. Composed of Erich Schaefer, co-founder of Blizzard North and instrumental creator to the Diablo series, and Travis Baldree, who created Fate and Mythos, the two have sufficient experience in the genre. Heck, they’ve shown they have what it takes to deliver a compelling action RPG experience in this day and age – their work on the awesome Torchlight series is proof of the same.
Rebel Galaxy is taking a sufficiently different approach however. Rather than simply giving you deep space combat and ships to upgrade, Double Damage is working diplomacy and freedom of choice into the mix. Do you want to destroy your enemies or trade with them? Rebel Galaxy wants to provide that level of choice while still offering plenty of action for fans of the genre.
GamingBolt spoke to Travis Baldree about various aspects of Rebel Galaxy, including the jump from traditional hack and slash action RPGs to space combat, creating a sprawling title with just two team members (and a bunch of contractors) and much more.
"A lot of our previous RPG experience translates very easily. In a sense your ship’s load-out is similar to RPG equipment slots. Weapon systems are similar to RPG skills, with fast direct attacks, slower splash-damage effects, long versus short cool-downs, multiple defense layers."
Rashid K. Sayed: Before Double Damage, your history included Diablo and Fate before Runic Games created Torchlight. What inspired the move into space combat and exploration with Rebel Galaxy?
Travis Baldree: A big factor, implied by you question, is we really wanted a change of pace. We’ll always love little dudes with swords and mages with fireballs, but it was time to broaden the horizon (literally, in a way) and flex the creative juices (to mix a lot of metaphors). Both of us had started and abandoned a couple space projects in our careers, including one at Runic Games, so the interest was always there. Happy to say this one looks like it’s going to take off!
Rashid K. Sayed: Rebel Galaxy has the help of contractors for various tasks like art and music but the main work is down to you two. What is it like to be so hands-on and personal with a project of this magnitude?
Travis Baldree: Another reason we decided to tackle the space genre is it’s just easier to make than fantasy RPGs; fewer assets, less animation, etc. But the experience overall has been great: no management, no meetings and no drama. Its 99% heads down creating content.
Rashid K. Sayed: Rebel Galaxy’s ships have all the customization befitting a Homeworld game but with the controls of an action RPG. How do you balance out the complexity and strategy associated with the load-outs with the instant action that Diablo and Torchlight fans love?
Travis Baldree: A lot of our previous RPG experience translates very easily. In a sense your ship’s load-out is similar to RPG equipment slots. Weapon systems are similar to RPG skills, with fast direct attacks, slower splash-damage effects, long versus short cool-downs, multiple defense layers. We’re very used to creating and balancing this kind of stuff. Instant-action-wise, I think we are half way between fantasy RPGs and recent space sims. We have lots of little enemies that are easily dispatched, along with boss-style battles against bigger ships that require more strategy.
"Advancement through Rebel Galaxy is primarily about upgrading your ship. Mostly that’s an economic path – make money to buy better stuff – but also about faction standing as discussed above. Once you complete the main storyline, you are welcome to keep doing both."
Rashid K. Sayed: Tell us about the various factions within Rebel Galaxy. With the emphasis on more RPG-like story-telling and branching, how will your actions influence the factions and story?
Travis Baldree: We’ve got a variety of factions including galaxy-wide alien races (humans and weirdos), guilds that will accept all races (merchants, miners, mercenaries) and local-system-only pirates. Both our storyline conversation decisions and your actions in space, can improve or hurt your standing with any of these groups.
If you increase your relationship, factions can unlock new weapons and equipment, offer more lucrative missions and come to your aid while out in space. Negative standings will increase a faction’s hostility in encounters, and if they start to hate you bad enough, they’ll even send out assassins to hunt you down.
Rashid K. Sayed: We’ve seen various end-game content for RPGs that rely on random loot and world generation. For Path of Exile, it was the Maps. For Diablo 3, it was the Nephalem/Greater Rifts. What will Rebel Galaxy implement to keep players occupied, aside from the open-ended sandbox missions?
Travis Baldree: Advancement through Rebel Galaxy is primarily about upgrading your ship. Mostly that’s an economic path – make money to buy better stuff – but also about faction standing as discussed above. Once you complete the main storyline, you are welcome to keep doing both. The faction system is “gameable”, in that you can befriend one group, unlock their special components, and then move on to cozy up to their enemies for their loot.
I suspect this will take a fair amount of long-term effort to get to the biggest and best ship. However, I don’t want raise expectations too far with this. It’s not really within our scope to have Path of Exile or Diablo 3 expansive end-games. We just want to make sure you can keep flying your cool juggernauts into more extreme combat scenarios.
Rashid K. Sayed: Speaking more about the sandbox, there seems to be a real Freelancer-vibe to how you can approach missions, ranging from protecting innocent ships to outright piracy. Can you talk more about the various approaches players can take to different situations?
Travis Baldree: The only thing you absolutely have to do is make money for upgrades. How you do this is very much up to you. Doing missions for various factions is an obvious choice, as is running cargo from one station to another. Piracy, bounties, exploring and mining asteroids are also options. Many of our events and missions support multiple styles. So if you’re flying along and pick up a nearby distress beacon, and when you investigate you find a merchant beset by a squadron of pirates, you have a choice off actions.
You can kill the pirates for a reward and faction bump with merchants. Maybe you scan the hold of the merchant and decide you want his cargo, so you join up with the pirates. Or do both, kill the pirates then demand the merchant’s loot all for yourself.
"Rebel Galaxy will be single-player only, both due to complexity and scope issues (just 2 guys, again…) but also due to the gameplay choices."
Rashid K. Sayed: How easy or hard has it been to translate the scale of Rebel Galaxy’s combat to the PS4, as compared to the PC?
Travis Baldree: While we support keyboard and mouse controls on the PC, we’re developing primarily for console-style controllers, so it’s more than easy to translate; PS4 plays exactly like the PC.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will we see any PC-exclusive content for Rebel Galaxy or will it maintain parity with the PS4 in terms of content and updates?
Travis Baldree: Currently our plans are for the same content across all systems. Hey, there’s only two of us here!
Rashid K. Sayed: Why is Rebel Galaxy coming to the PS4 and not Xbox One? Does Sony’s indie policy, versus that of Microsoft, have anything to do with it?
Travis Baldree: We announced a PS4 version first, but we’ve since announced we are also coming out on Xbox One as well as Mac. PC will almost certainly come first, but the others shouldn’t be far behind.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will Rebel Galaxy have co-op play at launch or even somewhere down the line? The idea of large-scale capital ship battles would be all the more enticing if we had friends to play with.
Travis Baldree: Rebel Galaxy will be single-player only, both due to complexity and scope issues (just 2 guys, again…) but also due to the gameplay choices. For instance, it’s pretty important in big encounters to pause the action and scan around to make strategic decisions on who to target first, who to avoid, etc.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Travis Baldree: We want to thank everyone for their interest because we know this game and play style is harder to explain than things we’ve done in the past. Please give it a try or watch some streams if you’re interested, because I think the action faster, easier and more fun than I may have conveyed here.