Astroneer Interview: Boldly Enterprising Where None Have Before

System Era co-founder discusses the upcoming space exploration title.

Posted By | On 02nd, Jan. 2017 Under Article, Interviews

Whether you loved or hated No Man’s Sky, there’s no denying the cloud it cast on space exploration titles for the future. However, one such game has been thriving in Steam Early Access since December 16th and seems to be making all the right moves with its communication. System Era’s Astroneer features procedural generation but is offering a much heavier focus on industry and exploration.

GamingBolt spoke to System Era co-founder Adam Bromell about Astroneer, including managing expectations, the current state of development and much more.

"When it releases on Early Access/Game Preview there will be 6 types of planets a solar system can build from."

To begin with can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Adam Bromell, I’m co-founder of System Era and an artist working on Astroneer. I mostly focus on the worlds/environments of the game. I have a background in AAA development. My last job was with Ubisoft Toronto as an Assistant Art Director.

How did the idea of Astroneer come about?

It started as a side art project of mine that I shared with Paul Pepera privately. As we were discussing it we saw potential for a game in it and decided to pursue that idea. Eventually I moved away from it being an art project to me trying to establish a style and overall narrative of the game.

Astroneer is being touted as the next No Man’s Sky. What is your take on this comparison?

I’m not sure who is saying it’s the next NMS. And honestly I don’t quite understand what they mean when they say that. Other than being in space with procedural planets our games are very different. Hopefully they’re not talking about the launch of the game and the perception the players had of it! We’ve learned a lot from Hello Games and the launch of No Man’s Sky that we put in to practice every day.

The game promises to have “a multitude of harsh new worlds.” How many worlds are we looking at here? Is the game going to have some sort of unlimited planet algorithm?

When it releases on Early Access/Game Preview there will be 6 types of planets a solar system can build from. Each of those planets has a myriad of biomes and variations within to make them feel different each time you visit. It’s hard to comment on the future of the game, especially its technology, but we want to expand on all ideas.

"Weather and environment hazards will be what originally challenge the player."

Roughly speaking how big is each planet?

Hard to say. In Unreal they’re anywhere from 500,000 to 100,000 units in radius.

The gameplay mechanics seem to be much interesting and complex that No Man’s Sky. Can you please talk about the same?

We use a diagetic interface – one where you’re interacting with menus and things directly in the game. There’s little-to-no 2D UI in Astroneer. We use that to embrace our hierarchical snapping system where players can piece together different aerospace-themed components to create modules and vehicles as they see fit. Those things will be used in the exploration of planets and discovery of rare things.

Can you tell us about the game’s progression system and whether there will be any sort of a customization system involved?

Progression currently happens by way of discoveries: You’ll make rare discoveries that will unlock new items for you to 3D print (craft). We’ll have some customization at launch, which we’ll eventually grow to be a more fulfilled customization system. We’re keeping those details secret, for now.

We have read reports that there will be no combat in the game. Then how do you plan to tackle the players vs. environment theme and make it interesting for players?

Weather and environment hazards will be what originally challenge the player. Sand storms, acid rain, torrential winds, falling rocks, huge fall distances, slippery slopes, etc. will be what challenge the player. We’ve no plans to pursue adversarial gameplay. Part of the fantasy we’re building is of astronauts being explorers on uncharted planets. As we explore that theme we feel weapons/”Bad guys” would be a distraction of that work.

"It’s the basis of our game play motivations: Explore, survival, and discover. You can’t expand without making discoveries and researching what you find."

Will the game feature any sort of story line? How are the quests generated and what kind of mission structure do they follow?

Perhaps! We’ve mostly talked about the sandbox experience so far and that is for good reason: We’re still establishing what it is a “story” might play like in a game like ours. If a story line is important to you in a game like this we might have something in the game at launch that you’ll find interesting 😉

How big is the discovery element in the game?

It’s the basis of our game play motivations: Explore, survival, and discover. You can’t expand without making discoveries and researching what you find. We’ve been tuning that endlessly so it feels meaningful and challenging each time.

What is your take on the negative reception that No Man’s Sky has been receiving in the last few months?

I think it’s important for every developer to understand what they’re saying to their audience and understand what it is they are hearing.

Is there a reason why you guys are launching as a console exclusive on Xbox One? Are you looking at other platforms such as PS4?

One of the best things about Astroneer is that it’s a game being built for a paid-alpha platform. We’re build a game made for the “early access” process: It’ll fail without player feedback. Microsoft has a great platform for this with their Game Preview program for Xbox One and Windows 10 store. It’s similar to Steam Early Access in many ways, which made it a very easy transition for us to go from being Steam exclusive to being available on both Steam and Xbox Game Preview. Astroneer could end up on a Sony console at some point, but for now we can only work with platforms that support our development process and that means Early Access and Game Preview.

"We want it to be the absolute best version of itself it can be and working with the players on that will ensure that."

The game is scheduled to go into Early Access this December so when can we expect the final release to happen?

That’s hard to answer as it hinges on the development of the game during Early Access. If we can get it to a point that feels like a complete version of the game in a year, we’d love to. We also know that being in a paid-alpha is a more liquid process, so that could take longer to do. It depends on the player’s reaction to the game, our road map, and what they want of Astroneer.

What is your target resolution and frame rate for the Xbox One? 1080p and 60fps, I suppose?

That is the target goal we’re aiming to reach. Zabir writes about that in the blog post I linked to above.

Are you planning to bring the game to NX, Pro and Scorpio?

We’re only planning for Astroneer to be released on Steam (Windows 7, 8, 10), Windows 10 store, and Xbox One.

I would like to thank you for your time. Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?

Just that Astroneer was a chance for us to leave the AAA development process for one that felt more live to its audience. We truly want to work with players that want a game like Astroneer and are invested in its development.

It’s liberating to be able to share the development process with players, where we lift the curtain back to show the ups and downs of the process. And, ideally, come to decisions on things with them. In our eyes releasing as a paid-alpha was crucial to the success of the game. We want it to be the absolute best version of itself it can be and working with the players on that will ensure that.


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