Rockfish Games CEO Michael Schade speaks about the upcoming open world space faring title.
After the success of Everspace, Rockfish Games are doubling down on what they got right with it, and coming back with more. Everspace 2 is a long way out from its release in 2021, but already, it’s promising to have some exciting ingredients, combining all that we loved in the first game with a vast open world setting to explore (or open space, in this case), RPG mechanics, loot systems, and more. We recently sent across some of our questions about to the developer, hoping to learn more about it- you can read our conversation with Rockfish Games CEO Michael Schade below.
"Everspace 2 is the type of game we wanted to make in the beginning, but didn’t have the funding to support. Additionally, the vast majority of our playerbase and dedicated fans want us to go open-world as well, so it’s a win-win direction."
What led to the decision of dropping the first game’s roguelike progression in favour of a handcrafted open world?
Everspace 2 is the type of game we wanted to make in the beginning, but didn’t have the funding to support. Additionally, the vast majority of our playerbase and dedicated fans want us to go open-world as well, so it’s a win-win direction. Rest assured, our fans who enjoyed that roguelike formula will find brutal high risk/reward areas in the game throughout.
How much of a focus does Everspace 2 put on story and storytelling?
This time, we have a much bigger budget for the story and even have support from Joshua Rubin who worked on the story of Destiny, Game of Thrones, Assassin’s Creed II and other iconic AAA titles. We’ve also expanded the team a bit to help in several facets, one of which focuses on various story missions to keep the content surrounding the main campaign enticing and enjoyable. We recently published our first vlog, covering the expanded game world and story as well as the improved quality of the animated cinematics in Everspace 2.
With that significant change to the structure, how are you striking the balance between retaining the spirit of the first game while also doing justice to all the new stuff you’re attempting with the sequel?
The flying physics remained, so veteran players will be right at home with the intuitive controls from the original Everspace in an all-new adventure throughout the established game world. While the genre is vastly different, the content of Everspace 2 is bound to several similar environments, familiar faces, variants of the predecessor’s playable starships, and equipment that feels right at home. Of course, with an open-world RPG, there will be greatly expanded territory to explore and plenty of new missions to undertake. Through all of this, our expansive itemization will keep your loot fresh, functional, and unique.
Are you guys ready to talk about how large the game’s open world is?
Our new persistent world will span over at least eight star systems packed with countless points of interest, both hand-crafted and procedurally generated. We’re also including ways to travel around our expansive cluster quickly, as we want to keep things close to our fast-paced arcady intent for the game. Also, players can now explore each location without getting kicked out by a massive hostile fleet after a few minutes as it was the case in the predecessor. This was one of the biggest critiques from fans of classic space sims who just did not the enjoy the roguelike mechanics in the original Everspace. That being said, there will also be random events where retreating might be better than picking up a fight against an overwhelming opponent even though none of them will be invincible, this time around. Feeling lucky? Enjoy the challenge!
"We’re aiming to have the main campaign offer around 20-30 hours for the full story."
Given its very premise, it goes without saying that exploration and a sense of discovery are vital elements in the game. With that in mind, how have you been approaching crafting content – whether that’s in terms of locations or alien species or something else – that will encourage players to explore as much as possible?
Exploring, gathering resources, finding blueprints and crafting epic gear will play a much bigger role in Everspace 2. Of course, we already have a basic idea of where we want to go with this. But, since this will be the meat on the bone of the game – while the Everspace-style fast-paced combat and audiovisual experience would be the bone in that context – we really look forward to developing these tightly interwoven core features together with our community. Our pitch is Freelancer meets Diablo! Let’s see where this will lead.
Can you talk about progression mechanics in the game in terms of loot drops and customization mechanics?
As said, we have been heavily inspired by Diablo and similar loot-heavy games, and we are hard at work on a deep loot system that will feature a broad range of equipment to customize your particular playstyle, or for the situation at hand. Random and exotic modifiers will provide endless opportunity in the intergalactic war-torn game world of Everspace 2, as well as provide synergistic ways to mix and match your arsenal for daring combos to defeat even the toughest bosses in the endgame.
About how long will an average playthrough of Everspace 2 be?
We’re aiming to have the main campaign offer around 20-30 hours for the full story. At any time, players can branch off, explore the vast game world and do countless missions as they please. Again, think like Diablo or Destiny, you will be able to sink hundreds of hours into the endgame. Which is yet another reason for getting our community on board as soon as possible to really nail that addictive hunt for better loot when we hit full release in late 2021.
Do you have any plans to add multiplayer content to Everspace 2 down the road?
For this title, we’re sticking to what we’re best at: fast-paced single-player space shooters with RPG elements and a proper campaign, which is a bit nostalgic for several of us and what we’ve done at our previous studio. Even co-op is half the legwork of online multiplayer (netcode), but the code base and graphical assets for Everspace 2 were crafted for a solid single-player experience. Changing this route now or later, would cost us tremendous amounts of extra money and even add years to the development cycle. Adding multiplayer would be too big of a risk for a 100% self-funded independent team like us. Maybe for another title.
Given that Everspace 2 is still a while away from launch yet, are you considering a cross-gen launch for the game?
No doubt, we are super excited about both next-gen consoles! However, we really cannot comment on what our plans are supporting them, at the moment. We will share more about launching Everspace 2 on further platforms when the time is right.
"Since we did the console ports of the predecessor internally, we got all the knowledge for making Everspace 2 play great on all current-gen console models, too."
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
We haven’t optimized game performance too much yet, but we plan to support 4K as well as an enhanced visual experience in full 1080p with a higher framerate on Xbox One X, like we did in the predecessor.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
The PS4 Pro is a bit less powerful than the Xbox One X, so we will probably have to slightly reduce the screen size on the regular PS4 model and maybe go a bit easier on VFX on PS4 Pro to support 4K and hit 60 FPS in the visually enhanced mode in 1080p.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Frankly, we don’t know yet, but since we did the console ports of the predecessor internally, we got all the knowledge for making Everspace 2 play great on all current-gen console models, too.
The PS5 is confirmed to have SSD. From a development perspective, how will this help you to improve game performance in the future?
From what we read on the internet, it seems the PS5 does not have just a SSD plugged-in, but the entire system’s memory transfer is much faster, leading to ultra-short loading times. Which is great because locations in Everspace 2 will be handcrafted for even greater visuals – featuring Global Illumination, Ambient Occlusion and significantly increased overall level of detail – as well as better control over level design.
In the Everspace 2 prototype, you currently see a white transition screen for about three seconds when entering a new location – which is actually pretty good considering the much higher visual fidelity of the new game and how early in production we are. It could well be, that you won’t experience any noticeable loading times on the PS5 at all. That would be rad!
The PS5 will have a Zen 2 CPU processor which is a major leap over the CPUs found in the PS4 and Xbox One. From a development perspective, how will this help you in developing games of the future?
Much to the contrary of what one might think – like there is not that much going on in a space shooter, so it must be easy to make – 3D space games with lots of real-time action gameplay put quite a heavy load on the CPU. In fact, on the regular PS4 the original Everspace is rather CPU- than GPU-bound. So indeed, CPU performance has a significant impact on the overall gameplay experience in a 3D space shooter.
This is due to lots of NPCs and hundreds of projectiles flying around in 3D space while also complex collision detection calculations are going on for every single vessel at any given point in time. To make things worse, we cannot work with occlusion culling to reduce load on the CPU, like in a normal first- or third-person shooter. Players can see objects from right in front of their space ship all the way to the level boundaries miles away, so there are no shortcuts for AI and physics calculations that we could take.
So yes, a faster CPU allows for more NPCs and projectiles on the screen at the same time and more accurate collision detection and fancier combat AI, let’s say when dog fighting within a dense asteroid field with lots of obstacles to crash into, which would be awesome.
However, to make that same combat scene still work on less powerful systems, we would have to to come up with some clever tricks for reducing CPU load, like swapping kinetic for energy weapons to reduce the count of visible projectiles being calculated on the screen and/or simply decreasing the amount of enemies attacking. Obviously, everything would have then to be carefully rebalanced, so that the difficulty is still consistent. Tricky!
Having more destructible level geometry and/or greater detail would be another feature benefitting from a faster CPU. This however, would be easier to scale down on less powerful systems, which is why it would be much higher up our list of things to implement.
"Backwards compatibility is really awesome, especially for smaller studios who might not be able to revamp older titles for the newest console hardware at launch or at all."
Xbox Scarlett features GDDR6 memory. How will this increase in memory bandwidth help you in the future?
Of course! Loading times on any current-gen console have always been a bit of an issue for us. However, for obvious reasons, we cannot confirm anything regarding supporting next-gen consoles other than the fact that we’re really excited about both platforms making a big leap in performance which would make a perfect fit for a fast-paced space shooter with top-notch visuals.
Backwards compatibility is a big feature on PS5. How will it help your past library to evolve and grow?
Backwards compatibility is really awesome, especially for smaller studios who might not be able to revamp older titles for the newest console hardware at launch or at all. Plus, even without moving a single finger, any visually intense action game will benefit from the performance boost of the PS5. Since the original Everspace was designed all the way for high-end gaming PCs, I guess we could make it run with max graphics settings in 1080p at 60 FPS on PS5 without putting too much work into it. I bet our veteran fans on PlayStation would love that a lot.