The minds behind Spec Ops: The Line have been busy.
Star Citizen may be the game everyone is looking to for immersive space combat but YAGER’s Dreadnought has been doing it for a while. Not only that but the tactical action title emphasizes fleet warfare with all the maneuvering, flanking and management that comes with owning your own death cruiser. What is the current status of Dreadnought which seems to have been in closed beta for a while? How is the studio faring post the Dead Island 2 departure? GamingBolt spoke to YAGER game director Peter Holzapfel about the same and whether we’d see Dreadnought debut on consoles anytime soon.
"We wanted to give players the option to re-create the spaceships they love, from a space-pirate-inspired Galactica to a Millennium Falcon-type vessel. However, we wanted to bring these heroes and ships together to fight in fleets, like a league of extraordinary captains."
YAGER has had a rather interesting career graph, especially considering its work on Spec Ops: The Line and Dead Island 2. What motivated the return to a flight sim of sorts with Dreadnought?
Just like you said: spaceships were never really gone here at YAGER. Mathias Wiese, one of the co-owners of YAGER and our Art Director, is probably the biggest spaceship fan out there and is constantly drawing spaceships in meetings. Mathias also worked on the initial Yager game, where a lot of the visual design and spirit for Dreadnought can be found. So after Spec Ops: The Line, this passion turned into a pitch for Dreadnought. We finally had an opportunity to create something with big spaceships in the gaming space that captured the spirit of all the amazing TV shows and movies that we love. So, for us, the question is less “why are you doing this,” but more “why haven’t you done it before?” Big spaceships are amazing.
What inspired the multiplayer focus for Dreadnought? How was the overall gameplay envisioned, especially with regards to teamplay?
We wanted to give players the option to re-create the spaceships they love, from a space-pirate-inspired Galactica to a Millennium Falcon-type vessel. However, we wanted to bring these heroes and ships together to fight in fleets, like a league of extraordinary captains. Once we outlined this as our goal, the base ships we created aligned really nicely with classes from shooters, like Team Fortress 2—the main difference being that Dreadnought can go bigger and is not limited by human scale. We think this shooter-inspired DNA creates intuitive controls and adds a lot of depth to the gameplay. If you’re up against a fleet with a Tactical Cruiser and two Dreadnoughts, it triggers a range of potential tactics in your head, depending on your ship class and team setup. However, if a Corvette suddenly swoops in, you have to adjust to that. We’re big fans of this type of unit diversity because it creates a lot of tactical depth and encourages players to hone their individual play-styles.
Positioning your ship, using your shields and knowing when to strike have been key elements of the game thus far and have given it a more naval warfare kind of feel. How difficult was it to capture that kind of atmosphere while ensuring matches still flowed smoothly?
It’s great that you’re bringing this up, thank you. Naval warfare is actually one of our DNA slides for Dreadnought—it’s great that we got this across. Balancing the intense, cinematic action with the sheer size of the ships was a real challenge. We didn’t want to create a simulation; we wanted to create pop culture in the best sense. Accessible, but deep. So far, the feedback that we have heard tells us that we did a pretty good job, which we are obviously very happy about. Dreadnought feels well-paced and deliberate, but also intense and action-heavy once the ships engage.
"The 52 ships we have in our new progression system are keeping us pretty busy at the moment, but once we go into open beta, we definitely would like to explore more options."
Dreadnought has already received a fair amount of enthusiasm from its community. What is the current status of the closed beta?
We are super happy about the support we get from the community. This game is our passion project and we want to make it great. As a result, things have taken us longer than we expected. We are grateful that our community members appreciate our efforts, but we understand that they are starting to get a bit restless. We’ve been working really hard on implementing what we like to call Progression 2.0. This is a system that will significantly increase the amount of ships, weapons and modules available to players. It will also give them clear goals and more choices to make along their journeys as mercenary captains. We are very eager to see how players will react to it and to work with their feedback as we approach open beta.
What new modes do you have planned? How will they shake up team dynamics?
We just announced a shift toward bigger teams and currently have our sights set on 8v8. There are two main reasons for putting more ships in each battle:bigger, more intense battles and more tactical choices. This match size increase will also make it easier for each team to split up into smaller tactical forces of two and three ships.
The newly announced Onslaught Mode will introduce smaller, AI-controlled ships as targets. Similar to the 8v8 change, Onslaught is designed to keep the game manageable and fun for new players, while also creating more tactical options for experienced ones.
Can you tell us about the various ship classes? Will you be adding any more in the coming months?
We have five main classes in the game: the Dreadnought, Destroyer, Corvette, Tactical Cruiser and Artillery Cruiser. They’re essentially shooter classes—the tank, assault, scout, support and sniper—taken to the extreme. However, each of these classes has multiple ships that stress different characteristics on a high level.
Each ship also has four module slots that massively alter how it can be played. For example, a Monarch (heavy Dreadnought) can be equipped with the Plasma Broadside, Autocannons, short-range Missiles and Warp Jump. This makes the ship a pretty mobile, short-range skirmisher. The same ship with the Nuclear Missiles, Armor Hardener and Vulture Missiles becomes a fortress that stays behind the frontlines to deal long-range damage and breakup formations. It’s all about enabling the player to be the mercenary captain they want to be, while also keeping everything accessible. And we haven’t even started to talk about officer briefings.
Will we be adding more? The 52 ships we have in our new progression system are keeping us pretty busy at the moment, but once we go into open beta, we definitely would like to explore more options. We are very happy with the stable gameplay setup that we have. Now we can start experimenting and making the core even stronger without damaging it. So yes, there will be more classes, even more manufacturers.
"Inspiration for Dreadnought came from popular culture and sci-fi—Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly and all those amazing universes."
What other changes can be expected for Dreadnought in the future? Will Steam integration happen any time soon?
Like we mentioned before, Onslaught is the next game mode that we want to make available to our players. We’re also working on new maps. Currently,we’re focusing on our own Grey Box platform, but we will continue to ensure that it’s easy for players to get into the game.
After reducing squad size from 5 to 3, what improvements have been seen in matchmaking? How has the response been from the community?
The reduced squad size has made it much easier for us to find balanced matches. Since we are in closed beta, we kept the player population pretty small since there’s no need to burden players while we’re still figuring things out. Again, we thank everyone for helping us get this right. Our community has taken the change to 3-player squads pretty well, but some are worried how it will affect the competitive play. However, we think there anyways that we can keep the competitive aspect of the game strong. We already announced our plans for custom matches, which will enable players to setup tournaments and clan battles much more easily.
With so much nuance to the game (and given its space sim genre), how much easier is it for new players to progress through the experience?
Inspiration for Dreadnought came from popular culture and sci-fi—Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly and all those amazing universes. One thing that makes these stories so successful is that they are easy to get into, but also have a lot of depth and complexity once you get attached to them. We tried to keep the same kind of spirit in Dreadnought. The tiered approach is designed to create a journey for the player that is always interesting, but never overwhelming—at least we hope so.
When can Dreadnought be expected to release commercially? Will you consider PS4 and Xbox One releases?
At this point, we are not giving out exact dates. We’re in our last closed beta phases at the moment, so we should be there soon. Will Dreadnought come to console? Well, we’re focusing on the PC version, but we always created Dreadnought with the controller in mind—mainly because we wanted to keep the controls simple and intuitive, and because naval warfare gameplay naturally lends itself to the controller. So, who knows?To infinity and beyond, right?