Post news RSS Dev Diary no. 2 - FPS in space games and more

A new developer diary from behind the scenes of Miner Wars. This time we would like to talk about space games in general and a bit where we aim with our game.

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Hello All,

the time has come for the second developers diary. This time I would like to talk about space games in general and a bit about where we aim with our game.

When we started to think about making a game in space we immediately thought "hey lets think out of the box". Why arent other space games so succesful? What happened to the market of these games? And why has this become a niche market?

Well we dont have all the answers for that but we came to the conclusion that there are certain factors in play here. Some are really evil.

Firstly we thought that the accesibility is a problem in most space games to date. That is why we thought "lets give this game a good control scheme and an easy one that can fit on a Xbox 360 controller". Then we started thinking how to approach the problem. The only solution to it was applying a control scheme that was present in some of the most popular FPS games to date. We have done that without compromises. The ship starts and stops only when you apply pressure to the throttle and stops automatically. Some people might think that this is totally contradicting any current space simulation controls. Well it is and its mainly because our game is not trying to be a space simulation game. Its trying to be an accesible FPS shooter in space where skill counts as no.1.

This design philosophy comes mostly because when we started comparing other titles on the market, we found that most of the space simulation titles lacked in the area of player skill.

Back in the days when the only possibility to play a space simulation game was a joystick, it required skill as the no.1 factor. However as the games developed and so did the HW and game design, players started to play FPS games and did not want to have a joystick installed. Basically the generation that bought joysticks and cared for them as if they were their little babies slowly died out and so did planes in space type of games.

Some games in the past have tried to revive this genre by introducing mouse controls that were both aiming and turning the ship. This lead basically to a phase where the game got real easy real fast. Also in my honest oppinion it did not really help the gameplay. In contrary, by taking away the player skill it actually killed the games.

Others have tried a completely different approach like automatic aiming. Well again to be honest it did not help much as it introduced zero skill to the table.

So why are FPS games so popular these days and why are space games slowly dying out? Well people still want a challenge no matter what anyone says. This skill comes from aiming your mouse or controller in the right direction and shooting. The succesful kill then becomes a joy for the player. We are doing exactly that with Miner Wars. You aim ,you shoot, you move and you dodge other players shooting.

Other areas where the current genre was lacking was environmental interaction. You could basically travel around space and the only thing you could do was either shoot your enemy, get some loot and then go to your base and equip your ship. Some games let you travel around a static environment and take some missions.

We took a whole different approach to that problematic. We are introducing total environment destruction and physics interaction for the first time in any space game to date. You can shoot the asteroids, carve holes in them, make tunnels, hide in tunnels, search for ore and different artifacts and maybe find some hidden bases within these asteroids. We know that its cool for the player to search and explore and that is what this game is all about. All these actions are persistent and you might find other tunnels made by other players and wonder what the heck they were trying to achieve, it might be that its their hideout? Who knows.

Another area that we tried to redesign was the sense that the player needs to feel the environment around him. Not just travelling through the vast emptiness of space. I mean who finds that fun? This is why we are designing all kinds of interior bases for the player to explore. Think dungeons in space and you will know what I mean. What is cool about RPGs? Well for many of the players the coolest part is exploring dangerous dungeons and getting some loot from these places. The feeling of the secluded area and the joy of being able to breathe again when exiting into open space without feeling the ever present danger and the feeling of acomplishment.

You see this is something that no matter what everybody wants from a game. Your skill, exploration and interaction. All this counts together as pure fun. We think we have that game and we know that you will love it. It is a very complex challenge and everybody on the team knows that. Redesigning a genre was never easy but we think we have got what it takes.

Next week we will look again into factions and I will talk more about how the development is progressing. It is actually progressing fairly well :). Thank you for asking.

Tomas "Darghan" Psenicka
Keen Software House ltd.

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