Rockfish CEO talks about the past, present and future of Everspace.
Rockfish Games’ Everspace has had an interesting run in its lifetime. It came to Xbox One first as part of the Game Preview in 2016 and officially released for Steam earlier this year. Since then, the developer has polished it heavily and even pushed out a new DLC called Encounters for even more random fun. You wouldn’t think that something like roguelike space sim with dogfighting elements and a story would go far but Everspace managed it quite well.
To learn more about the game – and it’s imminent future – GamingBolt spoke to Rockfish CEO and Co-Founder Michael Schade. Schade also talks about the work that went into the expansion and whether a sequel will happen.
"We were mindful of the fact that there are many space-centric games out there, and to stand out amongst them we needed to find something to set us apart."
Everspace released in May 2017 on Steam and despite some issues, garnered a decent following. What are your thoughts on the game’s progress, both in terms of development and sales, since then?
We’re very happy with the sales as well as the positive response of both players and critics. Our current Metacritic score is 84 for Xbox, 79 for the PC version and the user rating on Steam is at an excellent 81 percent. Quite an achievement for a studio’s debut title, and it didn’t come easy.
To finance Everspace we had to create a Kickstarter campaign back in August 2015, followed by a Steam Early Access and Microsoft Preview Program release simultaneously in September 2016. Everspace has evolved quite a bit since then. We went into Early Access with only one player ship, with two added during Early Access. Recently, a fourth was added as part of the Encounters Expansion. Tons of new equipment and enemies have also been added to the world, as well as big features like Ship Enhancements, Hardcore Mode with true permadeath, and VR and HOTAS support.
We consider ourselves very lucky to have built a dedicated community who have helped us tremendously with their invaluable feedback to make Everspace better and better over the course if its development.
What inspired the concept of a rogue-lite space shooter, and one with such impressive graphics? There haven’t been a ton of recent games that have gone with this approach.
As you may know, our team is behind the critically acclaimed mobile games series, Galaxy on Fire. To us it felt obvious that another space game would be the best choice for a PC and console debut. There are still a lot of dedicated Galaxy on Fire fans who we were certain would be interested in its spiritual successor, along with players new to what we do.
We were mindful of the fact that there are many space-centric games out there, and to stand out amongst them we needed to find something to set us apart. While we’re massive fans of rogue-like space shooters, we wanted to go with the less punishing approach of a rogue-lite experience, with permanent progression, and instead of using 2D retro graphics, which we still also love, decided to go with top-notch, AAA visuals.
We felt this was something new that had not been done before, and had the potential to appeal to a wider audience. We believe Everspace can serve as an introduction to rogue-like mechanics for many players new to the genre, while still feeling fresh to gamers familiar with it, thus being able to offer a new and exciting experience for everyone.
You released a new major expansion, Encounters, with new quest lines, characters and much more. What’s the response been like thus far, and what challenges did you face in development?
The response has been great. We’re at a 97% positive rating on Steam for the expansion. Players really like the new ship and equipment, and have been praising the name-giving encounters, saying they add more depth and a new way to look at the game. We’ve really enjoyed the feedback.
Developing an expansion is no easy task. A few of the features and concepts that wound up in the expansion have been around for some time, but a lot of stuff had to be created from scratch, particularly the new ship. We knew we needed it though, as there was a lot of demand for it.
Luckily, the development time for Encounters was quite short, which was great because we wanted to get it out there rather quickly while there still was fresh buzz around the game, and players were probably at the point in Everspace where they would be ready for new content. We also wanted the expansion to be rather big, so players would be happy and feel that they got their money’s worth.
"We feel the new space creatures enrich the game world and offer some great surprises, and hopefully will encourage more exploration. We‘re particularly fond of the Scrap Anemone with its creepy tentacles."
How do you feel the Encounters expansion, for lack of a better word, expands on the Everspace universe, filling it with more stuff for players to do?
It was our intention that Encounters would be an expansion you could play any time, rather than after finishing the base game. We also didn’t want it to take place in a different game world, or be a part of a new game mode, but rather incorporated seamlessly with all of its various elements into the base game, so both veteran and new players alike could enjoy the expanded content. We feel this approach leads to a richer, fuller and more diverse Everspace universe experience for everyone. There’s definitely more to see and do to keep gamers engaged in the world.
The new Colonial Sentinel is intriguing. What other ship designs do you have in mind for the future? Will some of them be free?
Glad that you like the ship’s design and concept! We’re very fond of it as well. Envisioning what kind of ship it would be was more complicated than one might think. We originally did not plan on having more than three player ships, all very different and unique. We wanted to cover every type of ship we felt would fit the player’s needs.
The Interceptor is the all-rounder, the Scout is fragile but very agile and stealthy, and the Gunship slow but extremely powerful. What we eventually came up with was a medium class electronic warfare ship with a weaker hull, but strong shields, combined with some very cool exclusive gear and the largest amount of equipment slots available. It can only hold a single primary weapon, however, which puts a bigger focus on using a vast array of devices and consumables during each fight. It’s a really cool ship, and a fun challenge to master.
Regarding future ships, it will be difficult to come up with something new that has a place among the others. While there are currently no plans for further additions, you never know. Most likely if we add new ones, they will be variants of our existing ships. As of now we’ve not decided on a price point for potential future additions to the game.
What can you tell us about some of the new weapons, tools and space creatures? Which one is your favourite thus far (and which could be getting some additional tuning)?
We feel the new space creatures enrich the game world and offer some great surprises, and hopefully will encourage more exploration. We‘re particularly fond of the Scrap Anemone with its creepy tentacles.
Regarding new equipment, the Plasma-Powered-Jump, Target Decelerator and Drone Disassembler came as a free update, and Encounters added 16 new pieces of equipment, 40 if you take mods and MK2/ MK3 variants into account. We really like the Lightning Gun with its chain lightning effect; it comes in handy when dealing with crowds. Another favourite is the Neutron Cannon. It probably is the most powerful weapon in the game, but you won’t be able to use it too often since you can’t find it randomly, and crafting one is very resource- heavy.
"We are of course taking a sequel into consideration, but it’s a little early to think that far ahead."
Both the EMP Generator and the Static Discharger are very fun to use. We spent quite some time on balancing, which can be tricky as every piece of equipment has to be useful in certain situations, but must not be so powerful they’re game-breaking. We’ve made a lot of tweaks and changes in the last few months and always have an open ear for changes. The Drone Disassembler used to be too powerful in its first iteration, for example. Feedback is obviously helpful in situations such as this.
The G&B Factory is interesting because it allows players to repair their ship in the middle of a run. Do you feel such an addition makes the game “easier” for hardcore players?
Yes, encountering a G&B factory certainly has its advantages. It’s not only great for repairs, which you can also get at service stations, but also having access to the refinery, where players can get their hands on resources needed for ship upgrades, and vital temporal boosts. It definitely makes aspects of the game easier. We had non-veterans in mind with this addition. That said, you’ll have to find a G&B Factory first.
Will there be more significant expansions like Encounters in the coming year? Will there be any larger expansion packs retailing for higher prices that bring even more to the game?
We can’t say just yet. We will first have to see if the Encounters expansion does well. The critical reception has been quite positive, but it’s a little too early to tell if further additions make sense from a financial point of view. If people love what we’ve done so far, we hope they continue supporting it in such a way that it makes sense to build on what we’ve already created.
What are your thoughts on potentially launching Everspace for other platforms like VR or the PS4?
We’re currently working on a PS4 version and hope to release it in Q1 2018. It looks very promising and we can’t wait to see how our game is received by the PlayStation community. We won’t be offering PSVR support though. It took a lot of time to get the PC VR version ready, and there seems to be more titles that are VR exclusive for good reason, like performance optimization and gameplay that works well with VR. While VR players immensely enjoy traversing our beautiful Everspace universe, the game is probably a little too fast-paced for the optimal VR experience.
How long will it be until a sequel is released? How much support can we expect for Everspace for the foreseeable future?
We are of course taking a sequel into consideration, but it’s a little early to think that far ahead. We’re still a fairly small team and are currently busy with the planned Encounters release on Xbox One, the 4k support for Xbox One X, the official Linux version release and the aforementioned PlayStation port. We’re also evaluating the possibility of a Nintendo Switch port. We are very dedicated to supporting Everspace. We’re reading every forum message and looking out for any bugs that need fixing and evaluating all of the feedback we’re getting.
"Still, it is the nature of consoles that they can never compare to the very latest gaming PCs."
Do you think Microsoft’s mandate for not allowing Xbox One X exclusives will hold back its true potential?
It is more time-consuming for developers to offer a game that works well on two different platforms, instead of focusing on one and being able to make the most of it. On the other hand, it’s nice for consumers that they are not forced into getting a new console just to play a game. And of course, it’s an advantage that if they do get the Xbox One X, they will still be able to play a game that they already own with the addition of upgraded graphics. Lastly, if your game is also for PC, you must optimize it for a broad range of hardware specs.
What is the one thing that you like about the Xbox One X?
We’re still not finished with the Xbox One X version, but so far so good. We’ll update you if anything surprising happens.
Does the Xbox One X have enough power to render games in native 4K?
It really depends on the frame rate you would like to achieve, the type of game and the amount of graphical effects. Some games can be more CPU than GPU bound. I’d say it’s certainly possible. We’re still not done with our work on the Xbox One X version, so it’s maybe a little early to say anything definitively.
How much more powerful do you think the Xbox One X is compared to the Xbox One and PS4 Pro?
We can’t give exact values on the Xbox One X, but with the same graphics settings and resolution we get a much higher frame rate compared to the Xbox One. This enables us to increase the graphics as well as the resolution and still have a higher frame rate than on Xbox One. We also seem to be getting slightly better results compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro.
"It is more time-consuming for developers to offer a game that works well on two different platforms, instead of focusing on one and being able to make the most of it."
Is the x86 architecture of the consoles helping in reducing the gap between consoles and PC?
Yes, it definitely is an advantage that they are closer in architecture. It will reduce development time and enable consoles to benefit from new hardware sooner.
How do you think the Xbox One X compares against a modern gaming PC?
It seems to be the most powerful console to date, and certainly offers a very attractive package for gamers. Still, it is the nature of consoles that they can never compare to the very latest gaming PCs. You, for example, can’t get a graphics card upgrade yourself on a console. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about games being released that your graphics card won’t be able to handle properly.
Which PC GPU does the Xbox One X’s GPU come close to?
It uses and AMD card with 6 teraflops and 12GB GDDR5, so it probably compares to a GeForce GTX 1060. It does have more memory, but the Xbox One X uses a weaker CPU compared to the latest gaming PCs, which must be taken into consideration as well.
Do you want more gamers to play Everspace on the Xbox One X?
Certainly! Everspace still looks great on the Xbox One, but compared to the highest settings on a PC we had to reduce the graphics slightly, so that they are closer to medium PC settings. On the Xbox One X the game looks and plays much better, so of course we prefer players experience the game that way.